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Calm is the morn without a sound.
Calm as to suit a calmer grief,
And only thro' the faded leaf
Calm and deep peace on this high wold,
That twinkle into green and gold:
Calm and still light on yon great plain
To mingle with the bounding main:
Calm and deep peace in this wide air,
These leaves that redden to the fall;
And in my heart, if calm at all,
Calm on the seas, and silver sleep,
And waves that sway themselves in rest,
And dead calm in that noble breast *
Which heaves but with the heaving deep.
Note that the five stanzas of this glorious poem—for it is a complete poem in itself—constitute a single sentence. To do it justice in reading, one would require to modulate the voice to each change of scene—and there are several—without altering its pitch. As the tone of thought and feeling never changes for a moment, whether it is on the windy wold or on the autumn plain, or on the waves far out at sea, that the poet looks, the appropriateness of this continuity in language, preserved from clause to clause of the great sentence, is beyond question. The five stanzas sound like one long, rippling swell of cathedral music.
The ship arrives; the grave is dug : and on the ashes of the dead will grow " the violet of his native land." Arthur Hallam lies in the chancel of Cleveland Church by the Severn.
There twice a day the Severn fills;
And hushes half the babbling Wye,
And makes a silence in the hills.
The Light Breaking. 325
Meditating by the grave of his friend, Tennyson next bethinks him of the course of their friendship. "Through four sweet years " they had walked with each other "from flower to flower, from snow to snow "; in the autumn of the fifth year, the "Shadow feared of man" met them and broke the "fair companionship," bearing Arthur away whither Alfred could not follow, though he walked in haste, and mused that the Shadow was waiting for him "somewhere in the waste." Piece after piece now is filled with the melodious reflections of the poet on the past. Love had cleft his sorrows in twain and given half of each to be borne by Arthur. He shrinks, as at a guilty suggestion, from the idea that his affection may die away into indifference. Nor will he be tempted by the anguish of bereavement to wish that he had never loved.
I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
"Tis better to have loved and lost
This is a glimpse of light under the edge of the black cloud; and in the next piece we approach the first Christmas after Arthur's death. The bells of four hamlets answer each other through the mist on Christmas Eve, and the poet feels that they touch his sorrow with joy, "the merry, merry bells of Yule.'; But the season is not as former seasons have been.
At our old pastimes in the hall
We gambol'd, making vain pretence
Of gladness, with an awful sense
Following the celebration of the first Christmas after the death, we have three of the most solemn and hymn-like pieces in the poem, two suggested by the intercourse of Christ with the family of Bethany and the resurrection of Lazarus, and a third designed to rebuke the cynical scepticism which, it might naturally occur to Tennyson, would sneer at poetry so orthodox.
O thou that after toil and storm
Mayst seem to have reached a purer air.
Leave thou thy sister when she prays.
Her early Heaven, her happy views;
Nor thou with shadow'd hint confuse
Her faith thro' form is pure as thine.
Her hands are quicker unto good:
Oh, sacred be the flesh and blood
See thou, that countest reason ripe
In holding by the law within,
Thou fail not in a world of sin,
This last is a weighty and suggestive thought. The embodiment of a law can never be absolutely perfect, and yet it is not the abstract principle, but the concrete rule, that is indispensable for the regulation of the common mind.
Hold thou the good: define it well:
Proeuress to the Lords of Hell.
The spirit of the poem now continues deeply religious through piece after piece, and profound questions are started and partially or tentatively answered, but with studious disclaimer of intention to speak with dogmatic confidence or exhaustive finality.
Urania speaks with darkened brow:
If these brief lays, of sorrow born.
Good the Goal of III. 327
Nor dare she trust a longer lay,
Their wings in tears, and skim away.
la stanzas of true sublimity he invokes the spirit of his friend to stand by him in the hour of death.
Bo near me when my light is low,
When the blood creeps, and the nerves prick
And all the wheels of Being slow.
Be near me when the sensuous frame
And Life, a Fury slinging flame.
Deep shadows still fall upon the page, but the light nevertheless increases. At length, in No. LIV., there is an exclamation of joy and hope.
Oh, yet we trust that somehow good
Will be the final goal of ill,
To pangs of nature, sins of will,
No. LXXIT. commemorates the first return of the day when Arthur died. The poet has not yet so far triumphed over his sorrow as to discriminate the plaintive melancholy of the autumn wind from the wild howl of misery. It is a day of lashing rain, when the rose pulls sideways and the daisy closes its crimson fringes; but if it had been clear and calm, and if the sunlight had danced in "chequerwork of beam and shade along the hills," it would have been "as wan, as chill, as wild," to the poet as now.
Lift as thou mayst thy burthen'd brows
And sow the sky with flying boughs,
And up thy vault with roaring sound
And hide thy shame beneath the ground.
In the interval between the first anniversary of his loss and the second Christmas, he reflects much on the transitory nature of human affairs. The fame that he foresaw has been quenched, and that seems strange in a world in which there is "so much to do." But he believes that "somewhere, out of human view," work may be found for his friend which will be " wrought with tumult of acclaim;" and why repine that he is not on earth to work or to sing, when the lays in which his image is enshrined may be dumb "before the mouldering of a yew"?
These mortal lullabies of pain
May bind a book, may line a box.
May serve to carl a maiden's locks;
A man upon a stall may find,
And, passing, turn the page that tells
Snng by a long-forgotten mind.
The second Christmas is not so sad as the first. Over all things broods "the quiet sense of something lost," yet no one shows a token of distress, and long use has dried the tears. There is cheerfulness accordingly in the strain in which he greets the new year, and acknowledges the impulse of its young life within him.
Bring orchis, bring the fox-glove spire.
The little speedwell's darling blue,
Deep tnlips dash'd with fiery dew,
O thou, new-year, delaying long,
Delayest the sorrow in my blood,
That longs to burst a frozen bud,
He recurs to the sentiment that it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, and in a piece containing about thirty stanzas, dwells upon the fact that his grief has not weakened but strengthened him, upon his earnest consciousness that "the sense of human will" demands action from every man, and upon his deliberate