So closed our tale, of which I give you all

The random scheme as wildly as it rose:

The words are mostly mine; for when we ceased

There came a minute’s pause, and Walter said,

‘I wish she had not yielded!’ then to me,

‘What, if you drest it up poetically?’

So prayed the men, the women: I gave assent:

Yet how to bind the scattered scheme of seven

Together in one sheaf? What style could suit?

The men required that I should give throughout

The sort of mock-heroic gigantesque,

With which we bantered little Lilia first:

The women–and perhaps they felt their power,

For something in the ballads which they sang,

Or in their silent influence as they sat,

Had ever seemed to wrestle with burlesque,

And drove us, last, to quite a solemn close–

They hated banter, wished for something real,

A gallant fight, a noble princess–why

Not make her true-heroic–true-sublime?

Or all, they said, as earnest as the close?

Which yet with such a framework scarce could be.

Then rose a little feud betwixt the two,

Betwixt the mockers and the realists:

And I, betwixt them both, to please them both,

And yet to give the story as it rose,

I moved as in a strange diagonal,

And maybe neither pleased myself nor them.

But Lilia pleased me, for she took no part

In our dispute: the sequel of the tale

Had touched her; and she sat, she plucked the grass,

She flung it from her, thinking: last, she fixt

A showery glance upon her aunt, and said,

‘You–tell us what we are’ who might have told,

For she was crammed with theories out of books,

But that there rose a shout: the gates were closed

At sunset, and the crowd were swarming now,

To take their leave, about the garden rails.

So I and some went out to these: we climbed

The slope to Vivian-place, and turning saw

The happy valleys, half in light, and half

Far-shadowing from the west, a land of peace;

Gray halls alone among their massive groves;

Trim hamlets; here and there a rustic tower

Half-lost in belts of hop and breadths of wheat;

The shimmering glimpses of a stream; the seas;

A red sail, or a white; and far beyond,

Imagined more than seen, the skirts of France.

‘Look there, a garden!’ said my college friend,

The Tory member’s elder son, ‘and there!

God bless the narrow sea which keeps her off,

And keeps our Britain, whole within herself,

A nation yet, the rulers and the ruled–

Some sense of duty, something of a faith,

Some reverence for the laws ourselves have made,

Some patient force to change them when we will,

Some civic manhood firm against the crowd–

But yonder, whiff! there comes a sudden heat,

The gravest citizen seems to lose his head,

The king is scared, the soldier will not fight,

The little boys begin to shoot and stab,

A kingdom topples over with a shriek

Like an old woman, and down rolls the world

In mock heroics stranger than our own;

Revolts, republics, revolutions, most

No graver than a schoolboys’ barring out;

Too comic for the serious things they are,

Too solemn for the comic touches in them,

Like our wild Princess with as wise a dream

As some of theirs–God bless the narrow seas!

I wish they were a whole Atlantic broad.’

‘Have patience,’ I replied, ‘ourselves are full

Of social wrong; and maybe wildest dreams

Are but the needful preludes of the truth:

For me, the genial day, the happy crowd,

The sport half-science, fill me with a faith.

This fine old world of ours is but a child

Yet in the go-cart. Patience! Give it time

To learn its limbs: there is a hand that guides.’

In such discourse we gained the garden rails,

And there we saw Sir Walter where he stood,

Before a tower of crimson holly-hoaks,

Among six boys, head under head, and looked

No little lily-handed Baronet he,

A great broad-shouldered genial Englishman,

A lord of fat prize-oxen and of sheep,

A raiser of huge melons and of pine,

A patron of some thirty charities,

A pamphleteer on guano and on grain,

A quarter-sessions chairman, abler none;

Fair-haired and redder than a windy morn;

Now shaking hands with him, now him, of those

That stood the nearest–now addressed to speech–

Who spoke few words and pithy, such as closed

Welcome, farewell, and welcome for the year

To follow: a shout rose again, and made

The long line of the approaching rookery swerve

From the elms, and shook the branches of the deer

From slope to slope through distant ferns, and rang

Beyond the bourn of sunset; O, a shout

More joyful than the city-roar that hails

Premier or king! Why should not these great Sirs

Give up their parks some dozen times a year

To let the people breathe? So thrice they cried,

I likewise, and in groups they streamed away.

But we went back to the Abbey, and sat on,

So much the gathering darkness charmed: we sat

But spoke not, rapt in nameless reverie,

Perchance upon the future man: the walls

Blackened about us, bats wheeled, and owls whooped,

And gradually the powers of the night,

That range above the region of the wind,

Deepening the courts of twilight broke them up

Through all the silent spaces of the worlds,

Beyond all thought into the Heaven of Heavens.

Last little Lilia, rising quietly,

Disrobed the glimmering statue of Sir Ralph

From those rich silks, and home well-pleased we went.





Lord Alfred Tennyson

More poems by Baron Alfred, Lord Tennyson