tennyson

Blow, Bugle, Blow

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The splendour falls on castle walls
And snowy summits old in story:
The long light shakes across the lakes,
And the wild cataract leaps in glory.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.

O hark, O hear! how thin and clear,
And thinner, clearer, farther going!
O sweet and far from cliff and scar
The horns of Elfland faintly blowing!
Blow, let us hear the purple glens replying:
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.

O love, they die in yon rich sky,
They faint on hill or field or river:
Our echoes roll from soul to soul,
And grow for ever and for ever.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
And answer, echoes, answer, dying, dying, dying.

 

– Alfred Lord Tennyson

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Boadicea

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While about the shore of Mona those Neronian legionaries
Burnt and broke the grove and altar of the Druid and Druidess,
Far in the East Boadicea, standing loftily charioted,
Mad and maddening all that heard her in her fierce volubility,
Girt by half the tribes of Britain, near the colony Camulodune,
Yell’d and shriek’d between her daughters o’er a wild confederacy.

`They that scorn the tribes and call us Britain’s barbarous populaces,
Did they hear me, would they listen, did they pity me supplicating?
Shall I heed them in their anguish? shall I brook to be supplicated?
Hear Icenian, Catieuchlanian, hear Coritanian, Trinobant!
Must their ever-ravening eagle’s beak and talon annihilate us?
Tear the noble hear of Britain, leave it gorily quivering?
Bark an answer, Britain’s raven! bark and blacken innumerable,
Blacken round the Roman carrion, make the carcase a skeleton,
Kite and kestrel, wolf and wolfkin, from the wilderness, wallow in it,
Till the face of Bel be brighten’d, Taranis be propitiated.
Lo their colony half-defended! lo their colony, Camulodune!
There the horde of Roman robbers mock at a barbarous adversary.
There the hive of Roman liars worship a gluttonous emperor-idiot.
Such is Rome, and this her deity: hear it, Spirit of Cassivelaun!

`Hear it, Gods! the Gods have heard it, O Icenian, O Coritanian!
Doubt not ye the Gods have answer’d, Catieuchlanian, Trinobant.
These have told us all their anger in miraculous utterances,
Thunder, a flying fire in heaven, a murmur heard aerially,
Phantom sound of blows descending, moan of an enemy massacred,
Phantom wail of women and children, multitudinous agonies.
Bloodily flow’d the Tamesa rolling phantom bodies of horses and men;
Then a phantom colony smoulder’d on the refluent estuary;
Lastly yonder yester-even, suddenly giddily tottering–
There was one who watch’d and told me–down their statue of Victory fell.
Lo their precious Roman bantling, lo the colony Camulodune,
Shall we teach it a Roman lesson? shall we care to be pitiful?
Shall we deal with it as an infant? shall we dandle it amorously?

`Hear Icenian, Catieuchlanian, hear Coritanian, Trinobant!
While I roved about the forest, long and bitterly meditating,
There I heard them in the darkness, at the mystical ceremony,
Loosely robed in flying raiment, sang the terrible prophetesses.
“Fear not, isle of blowing woodland, isle of silvery parapets!
Tho’ the Roman eagle shadow thee, tho’ the gathering enemy narrow thee,
Thou shalt wax and he shall dwindle, thou shalt be the mighty one yet!
Thine the liberty, thine the glory, thine the deeds to be celebrated,
Thine the myriad-rolling ocean, light and shadow illimitable,
Thine the lands of lasting summer, many-blossoming Paradises,
Thine the North and thine the South and thine the battle-thunder of God.”
So they chanted: how shall Britain light upon auguries happier?
So they chanted in the darkness, and there cometh a victory now.

Hear Icenian, Catieuchlanian, hear Coritanian, Trinobant!
Me the wife of rich Prasutagus, me the lover of liberty,
Me they seized and me they tortured, me they lash’d and humiliated,
Me the sport of ribald Veterans, mine of ruffian violators!
See they sit, they hide their faces, miserable in ignominy!
Wherefore in me burns an anger, not by blood to be satiated.
Lo the palaces and the temple, lo the colony Camulodune!
There they ruled, and thence they wasted all the flourishing territory,
Thither at their will they haled the yellow-ringleted Britoness–
Bloodily, bloodily fall the battle-axe, unexhausted, inexorable.
Shout Icenian, Catieuchlanian, shout Coritanian, Trinobant,
Till the victim hear within and yearn to hurry precipitously
Like the leaf in a roaring whirlwind, like the smoke in a hurricane whirl’d.
Lo the colony, there they rioted in the city of Cunobeline!
There they drank in cups of emerald, there at tables of ebony lay,
Rolling on their purple couches in their tender effeminacy.
There they dwelt and there they rioted; there–there–they dwell no more.
Burst the gates, and burn the palaces, break the works of the statuary,
Take the hoary Roman head and shatter it, hold it abominable,
Cut the Roman boy to pieces in his lust and voluptuousness,
Lash the maiden into swooning, me they lash’d and humiliated,
Chop the breasts from off the mother, dash the brains of the little one out,
Up my Britons, on my chariot, on my chargers, trample them under us.’

So the Queen Boadicea, standing loftily charioted,
Brandishing in her hand a dart and rolling glances lioness-like,
Yell’d and shriek’d between her daughters in her fierce volubility.
Till her people all around the royal chariot agitated,
Madly dash’d the darts together, writhing barbarous lineaments,
Made the noise of frosty woodlands, when they shiver in January,
Roar’d as when the rolling breakers boom and blanch on the precipices,
Yell’d as when the winds of winter tear an oak on a promontory.
So the silent colony hearing her tumultuous adversaries
Clash the darts and on the buckler beat with rapid unanimous hand,
Thought on all her evil tyrannies, all her pitiless avarice,
Till she felt the heart within her fall and flutter tremulously,
Then her pulses at the clamoring of her enemy fainted away.
Out of evil evil flourishes, out of tyranny tyranny buds.
Ran the land with Roman slaughter, multitudinous agonies.
Perish’d many a maid and matron, many a valorous legionary.
Fell the colony, city, and citadel, London, Verulam, Camulodune.

 

– Alfred Lord Tennyson

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The Miller’s Daughter

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It is the miller’s daughter,
And she is grown so dear, so dear,
That I would be the jewel
That trembles in her ear:
For hid in ringlets day and night,
I’d touch her neck so warm and white.

And I would be the girdle
About her dainty dainty waist,
And her heart would beat against me,
In sorrow and in rest:
And I should know if it beat right,
I’d clasp it round so close and tight.

And I would be the necklace,
And all day long to fall and rise
Upon her balmy bosom,
With her laughter or her sighs:
And I would lie so light, so light,
I scarce should be unclasp’d at night.

 

– Alfred Lord Tennyson

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The Grandmother

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I.
And Willy, my eldest-born, is gone, you say, little Anne?
Ruddy and white, and strong on his legs, he looks like a man.
And Willy’s wife has written: she never was over-wise,
Never the wife for Willy: he would n’t take my advice.

II.
For, Annie, you see, her father was not the man to save,
Had n’t a head to manage, and drank himself into his grave.
Pretty enough, very pretty! but I was against it for one.
Eh!–but he would n’t hear me–and Willy, you say, is gone.

III.
Willy, my beauty, my eldest-born, the flower of the flock;
Never a man could fling him: for Willy stood like a rock.
`Here’s a leg for a babe of a week!’ says doctor; and he would be bound,
There was not his like that year in twenty parishes round.

IV.
Strong of his hands, and strong on his legs, but still of his tongue!
I ought to have gone before him: I wonder he went so young.
I cannot cry for him, Annie: I have not long to stay;
Perhaps I shall see him the sooner, for he lived far away.

V.
Why do you look at me, Annie? you think I am hard and cold;
But all my children have gone before me, I am so old:
I cannot weep for Willy, nor can I weep for the rest;
Only at your age, Annie, I could have wept with the best.

VI.
For I remember a quarrel I had with your father, my dear,
All for a slanderous story, that cost me many a tear.
I mean your grandfather, Annie: it cost me a world of woe,
Seventy years ago, my darling, seventy years ago.

VII.
For Jenny, my cousin, had come to the place, and I knew right well
That Jenny had tript in her time: I knew, but I would not tell.
And she to be coming and slandering me, the base little liar!
But the tongue is a fire as you know, my dear, the tongue is a fire.

VIII.
And the parson made it his text that week, and he said likewise,
That a lie which is half a truth is ever the blackest of lies,
That a lie which is all a lie may be met and fought with outright,
But a lie which is part a truth is a harder matter to fight.

IX.
And Willy had not been down to the farm for a week and a day;
And all things look’d half-dead, tho’ it was the middle of May.
Jenny, to slander me, who knew what Jenny had been!
But soiling another, Annie, will never make oneself clean.

X.
And I cried myself well-nigh blind, and all of an evening late
I climb’d to the top of the garth, and stood by the road at the gate.
The moon like a rick on fire was rising over the dale,
And whit, whit, whit, in the bush beside me chirrupt the nightingale.

XI.
All of a sudden he stopt: there past by the gate of the farm,
Willy,–he did n’t see me,–and Jenny hung on his arm.
Out into the road I started, and spoke I scarce knew how;
Ah, there’s no fool like the old one — it makes me angry now.

XII.
Willy stood up like a man, and look’d the thing that he meant;
Jenny, the viper, made me a mocking courtesy and went.
And I said, `Let us part: in a hundred years it’ll all be the same,
You cannot love me at all, if you love not my good name.’

XIII.
And he turn’d, and I saw his eyes all wet, in the sweet moonshine:
Sweetheart, I love you so well that your good name is mine.
And what do I care for Jane, let her speak of you well of ill;
But marry me out of hand: we two shall be happy still.’

XIV.
`Marry you, Willy!’ said I, `but I needs must speak my mind,
And I fear you’ll listen to tales, be jealous and hard and unkind.’
But he turn’d and claspt me in his arms, and answer’d, `No, love, no;’
Seventy years ago, my darling, seventy years ago.

XV.
So Willy and I were wedded: I wore a lilac gown;
And the ringers rang with a will, and he gave the ringers a crown.
But the first that ever I bare was dead before he was born,
Shadow and shine is life, little Annie, flower and thorn.

XVI.
That was the first time, too, that ever I thought of death.
There lay the sweet little body that never had drawn a breath.
I had not wept, little Anne, not since I had been a wife;
But I wept like a child that day, for the babe had fought for his life.

XVII.
His dear little face was troubled, as if with anger or pain:
I look’d at the still little body–his trouble had all been in vain.
For Willy I cannot weep, I shall see him another morn:
But I wept like a child for the child that was dead before he was born.

XVIII.
But he cheer’d me, my good man, for he seldom said me nay:
Kind, like a man, was he; like a man, too, would have his way:
Never jealous–not he: we had many a happy year;
And he died, and I could not weep–my own time seem’d so near.

XIX.
But I wish’d it had been God’s will that I, too, then could have died:
I began to be tired a little, and fain had slept at his side.
And that was ten years back, or more, if I don’t forget:
But as to the children, Annie, they’re all about me yet.

XX.
Pattering over the boards, my Annie who left me at two,
Patter she goes, my own little Annie, an Annie like you:
Pattering over the boards, she comes and goes at her will,
While Harry is in the five-acre and Charlie ploughing the hill.

XXI.
And Harry and Charlie, I hear them too–they sing to their team:
Often they come to the door in a pleasant kind of a dream.
They come and sit by my chair, they hover about my bed–
I am not always certain if they be alive or dead.

XXII.
And yet I know for a truth, there’s none of them left alive;
For Harry went at sixty, your father at sixty- five:
And Willy, my eldest born, at nigh threescore and ten;
I knew them all as babies, and now they’re elderly men.

XXIII.
For mine is a time of peace, it is not often I grieve;
I am oftener sitting at home in my father’s farm at eve:
And the neighbors come and laugh and gossip, and so do I;
I find myself often laughing at things that have long gone by.

XXIV.
To be sure the preacher says, our sins should make us sad:
But mine is a time of peace, and there is Grace to be had;
And God, not man, is the Judge of us all when life shall cease;
And in this Book, little Annie, the message is one of Peace.

XXV.
And age is a time of peace, so it be free from pain,
And happy has been my life; but I would not live it again.
I seem to be tired a little, that’s all, and long for rest;
Only at your age, Annie, I could have wept with the best.

XXVI.
So Willy has gone, my beauty, my eldest-born, my flower;
But how can I weep for Willy, he has but gone for an hour,–
Gone for a minute, my son, from this room into the next;
I, too, shall go in a minute. What time have I to be vext?

XXVII.
And Willy’s wife has written, she never was over-wise.
Get me my glasses, Annie: thank God that I keep my eyes.
There is but a trifle left you, when I shall have past away.
But stay with the old woman now: you cannot have long to stay

 

– Alfred Lord Tennyson

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Northern Farmer: Old Style

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Wheer ‘asta beän saw long and meä liggin’ ‘ere aloän?
Noorse? thoort nowt o’ a noorse: whoy, Doctor’s abeän an’ agoän;
Says that I moänt ‘a naw moor aäle; but I beänt a fool;
Git ma my aäle, fur I beänt a-gawin’ to breäk my rule.
Doctors, they knaws nowt, fur a says what ‘s nawways true;
Naw soort o’ koind o’ use to saäy the things that a do.
I ‘ve ‘ed my point o’ aäle ivry noight sin’ I beän ‘ere.
An’ I ‘ve ‘ed my quart ivry market-noight for foorty year.
Parson ‘s a beän loikewoise, an’ a sittin’ ere o’ my bed.
“The amoighty ‘s a taäkin o’ you to ‘isén, my friend,” a said,
An’ a towd ma my sins, an’ s toithe were due, an’ I gied it in hond;
I done moy duty boy ‘um, as I ‘a done boy the lond.

Larn’d a ma’ beä. I reckons I ‘annot sa mooch to larn.
But a cast oop, thot a did, ’bout Bessy Marris’s barne.
Thaw a knaws I hallus voäted wi’ Squoire an’ choorch an’ staäte,
An’ i’ the woost o’ toimes I wur niver agin the raäte.

An’ I hallus coom’d to ‘s choorch afoor moy Sally wur deäd,
An’ ‘eard ‘um a bummin’ awaäy loike a buzzard-clock ower me ‘eäd,
An’ I niver knaw’d whot a meän’d but a thowt ä ‘ad summut to saäy.
An’ I thowt a said what a owt to ‘a said, an’ I coom’d awaäy.

Bessy Marris’s barne! tha knaws she laäid it to meä.
Mowt a beän, mayhap, for she wur a bad un, sheä.
‘Siver, I kep ‘um, I kep ‘um, my lass, tha mun understond;
I done moy duty boy ‘um, as I ‘a done boy the lond.

But Parson a cooms an’ a goäs, an’ a says it easy an’ freeä:
“The amoighty ‘s taäkin o’ you to ‘issén, my friend,” says ‘eä.
I weänt saäy men be loiars, thaw summun said it in ‘aäste;
But ‘e reäds wonn sarmin a weeäk, an’ I ‘a stubb’d Thurnaby waäste.

D’ ya moind the waäste, my lass? naw, naw, tha was not born then;
Theer wur a boggle in it, I often ‘eärd ‘um mysén;
Moäst loike a butter-bump, fur I ‘eärd ‘um about an’ about,
But I stubb’d ‘um oop wi’ the lot, an’ raäved an’ rembled ‘um out.

Keäper’s it wur; fo’ they fun ‘um theer a-laäid of is’ faäce
Down i’ the woild ‘enemies afoor I coom’d to the plaäce.
Noäks or Thimbleby–toäner ‘ed shot ‘um as dead as a naäil.
Noäks wur ‘ang’d for it opp at ‘soize–but git ma my aäle.

Dubbut looök at the waäaste; theer warn’t not feeäd for a cow;
Nowt at all but bracken an’ fuzz, an’ looök at it now–
Warn’t worth nowt a haäcre, an’ now theer ‘s lots o’ feeäd,
Fourscoor yows upon it, an’ some on it down i’ seeäd.

Nobbut a bit on it ‘s left, an’ I meän’d to ‘a stubb’d it at fall,
Done it ta-year I meän’d, an’ runn’d plow thruff it an’ all,
If godamoighty an’ parson ‘ud nobbut let ma aloän,–
Meä, wi haäte hoonderd haäcre o’ Squoire’s, an’ lond o’ my oän.

Do godamoighty knaw what a’s doing a-taäkin’ o’ meä?
I beänt wonn as saws ‘ere a beän an yonder a peä;
An’ Squoire ‘ull be sa mad an’ all–a’ dear, a’ dear!
And I ‘a managed for Squoire coom Michaelmas thutty year.

A mowt ‘a taäen owd Joänes, as ‘ant not a ‘aäpoth o’ sense,
Or a mowt a’ taäen young Robins–a niver mended a fence:
But godamoighty a moost taäke meä an’ taäke ma now,
Wi’ aäf the cows to cauve an’ Thurnaby hoälms to plow!

Looök ‘ow quoloty smoiles when they seeäs ma a passin’ boy,
Says to thessén, naw doubt, “What a man a beä sewer-loy!”
Fur they knaws what I beän to Squoire sin’ fust a coom’d to the ‘All;
I done moy duty by Squoire an’ I done moy duty boy hall.

Squoire ‘s i’ Lunnon, an’ summun I reckons ‘ull ‘a to wroite,
For whoa ‘s to howd the lond ater meä that muddles ma quoit;
Sartin-sewer I beä, thot a weänt niver give it to Joänes,
Naw, nor a moänt to Robins–a niver rembles the stoäns.

But summun ‘ull come ater meä mayhap wi’ ‘is kittle o’ steäm
Huzzin’ an’ maazin’ the blessed feälds wi’ the Divil’s oän teäm.
Sin’ I mun doy I mun doy, thaw loife they says is sweet,
But sin’ I mun doy I mun doy, for I couldn abeär to see it.

What atta stannin’ theer fur, an’ doesn bring me the aäle?
Doctor ‘s a ‘toättler, lass, an a’s hallus i’ the owd taäle;
I weänt breäk rules fur Doctor, a knaws naw moor nor a floy;
Git ma my aäle, I tell tha, an’ if I mun doy I mun doy.

 

– Alfred Lord Tennyson

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Northern Farmer: New Style

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Dosn’t thou ‘ear my ‘erse’s legs, as they canters awaäy?
Proputty, proputty, proputty–that’s what I ‘ears ’em saäy.
Proputty, proputty, proputty–Sam, thou’s an ass for thy paaïns:
Theer’s moor sense i’ one o’ ‘is legs, nor in all thy braaïns.
Woä–theer’s a craw to pluck wi’ tha, Sam; yon ‘s parson’s ‘ouse–
Dosn’t thou knaw that a man mun be eäther a man or a mouse?
Time to think on it then; for thou’ll be twenty to weeäk.
Proputty, proputty–woä then, woä–let ma ‘ear mysén speäk.
Me an’ thy muther, Sammy, ‘as been a’talkin’ o’ thee;
Thou’s beän talkin’ to muther, an’ she beän a tellin’ it me.
Thou’ll not marry for munny–thou’s sweet upo’ parson’s lass–
Noä–thou ‘ll marry for luvv–an’ we boäth of us thinks tha an ass.

Seeä’d her todaäy goä by–Saäint’s-daäy–they was ringing the bells.
She’s a beauty, thou thinks–an’ soä is scoors o’ gells,
Them as ‘as munny an’ all–wot’s a beauty?–the flower as blaws.
But proputty, proputty sticks, an’ proputty, proputty graws.

Do’ant be stunt; taäke time. I knaws what maäkes tha sa mad.
Warn’t I craäzed fur the lasses mysén when I wur a lad?
But I knaw’d a Quaäker feller as often ‘as towd ma this:
“Doänt thou marry for munny, but goä wheer munny is!”

An’ I went wheer munny war; an’ thy muther coom to ‘and,
Wi’ lots o’ munny laaïd by, an’ a nicetish bit o’ land.
Maäybe she warn’t a beauty–I niver giv it a thowt–
But warn’t she as good to cuddle an’ kiss as a lass as ‘ant nowt?

Parson’s lass ‘ant nowt, an’ she weänt ‘a nowt when ‘e ‘s deäd,
Mun be a guvness, lad, or summut, and addle her breäd.
Why? for ‘e ‘s nobbut a curate, an’ weänt niver get hissén clear,
An’ ‘e maäde the bed as ‘e ligs on afoor ‘e coom’d to the shere.

An’ thin ‘e coom’d to the parish wi’ lots o’ Varsity debt,
Stook to his taäil thy did, an’ ‘e ‘ant got shut on ’em yet.
An’ ‘e ligs on ‘is back i’ the grip, wi’ noän to lend ‘im a shuvv,
Woorse nor a far-welter’d yowe: fur, Sammy, ‘e married for luvv.

Luvv? what’s luvv? thou can luvv thy lass an’ ‘er munny too,
Maäkin’ ’em goä togither, as they’ve good right to do.
Couldn I luvv thy muther by cause ‘o ‘er munny laaïd by?
Naäy–fur I luvv’d ‘er a vast sight moor fur it: reäson why.

Ay, an’ thy muther says thou wants to marry the lass,
Cooms of a gentleman burn: an’ we boäth on us thinks tha an ass.
Woä then, proputty, wiltha?–an ass as near as mays nowt–
Woä then, wiltha? dangtha!–the bees is as fell as owt.

Breäk me a bit o’ the esh for his ‘eäd, lad, out o’ the fence!
Gentleman burn! what’s gentleman burn? is it shillins an’ pence?
Proputty, proputty’s ivrything ‘ere, an’, Sammy, I’m blest
If it isn’t the saäme oop yonder, fur them as ‘as it ‘s the best.

Tis’n them as ‘as munny as breaks into ‘ouses an’ steäls,
Them as ‘as coats to their backs an’ taäkes their regular meäls,
Noä, but it ‘s them as niver knaws wheer a meäl’s to be ‘ad.
Taäke my word for it Sammy, the poor in a loomp is bad.

Them or thir feythers, tha sees, mun ‘a beän a laäzy lot,
Fur work mun ‘a gone to the gittin’ whiniver munny was got.
Feyther ‘ad ammost nowt; leastways ‘is munny was ‘id.
But ‘e tued an’ moil’d issén dead, an’ ‘e died a good un, ‘e did.

Looök thou theer wheer Wrigglesby beck cooms out by the ‘ill!
Feyther run oop to the farm, an’ I runs oop to the mill;
An’ I ‘ll run oop to the brig, an’ that thou ‘ll live to see;
And if thou marries a good un I ‘ll leäve the land to thee.

Thim’s my noätions, Sammy, wheerby I means to stick;
But if thou marries a bad un, I ‘ll leäve the land to Dick.–
Coom oop, proputty, proputty–that’s what I ‘ears ‘im saäy–
Proputty, proputty, proputty–canter an’ canter awaäy.

 

– Alfred Lord Tennyson

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The Tears Of Heaven

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Heaven weeps above the earth all night till morn,
In darkness weeps, as all ashamed to weep,
Because the earth hath made her state forlorn
With selfwrought evils of unnumbered years,
And doth the fruit of her dishonour reap.
And all the day heaven gathers back her tears
Into her own blue eyes so clear and deep,
And showering down the glory of lightsome day,
Smiles on the earth’s worn brow to win her if she may.

 

– Alfred Lord Tennyson

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6th October – On This Day In History

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Born:

1930 Richie Benaud (Australian cricketer and commentator)

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Died:

1892 Alfred Lord Tennyson (poet)

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On This Day:

1980 Guyana adopts its constitution 

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Have a good Saturday, 6th October

Summer Night

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Now sleeps the crimson petal, now the white;
Nor waves the cypress in the palace walk;
Nor winks the gold fin in the porphyry font:
The firefly wakens: waken thou with me.

Now droops the milk-white peacock like a ghost,
And like a ghost she glimmers on to me.

Now lies the Earth all Danaë to the stars,
And all thy heart lies open unto me.

Now slides the silent meteor on, and leaves
A shining furrow, as thy thoughts in me.

Now folds the lily all her sweetness up,
And slips into the bosom of the lake:
So fold thyself, my dearest, thou, and slip
Into my bosom and be lost in me.

 

– Alfred Lord Tennyson

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The Talking Oak

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Once more the gate behind me falls;
Once more before my face
I see the moulder’d Abbey-walls,
That stand within the chace.

Beyond the lodge the city lies,
Beneath its drift of smoke;
And ah! with what delighted eyes
I turn to yonder oak.

For when my passion first began,
Ere that, which in me burn’d,
The love, that makes me thrice a man,
Could hope itself return’d;

To yonder oak within the field
I spoke without restraint,
And with a larger faith appeal’d
Than Papist unto Saint.

For oft I talk’d with him apart
And told him of my choice,
Until he plagiarized a heart,
And answer’d with a voice.

Tho’ what he whisper’d under Heaven
None else could understand;
I found him garrulously given,
A babbler in the land.

But since I heard him make reply
Is many a weary hour;
‘Twere well to question him, and try
If yet he keeps the power.

Hail, hidden to the knees in fern,
Broad Oak of Sumner-chace,
Whose topmost branches can discern
The roofs of Sumner-place!

Say thou, whereon I carved her name,
If ever maid or spouse,
As fair as my Olivia, came
To rest beneath thy boughs.—

“O Walter, I have shelter’d here
Whatever maiden grace
The good old Summers, year by year
Made ripe in Sumner-chace:

“Old Summers, when the monk was fat,
And, issuing shorn and sleek,
Would twist his girdle tight, and pat
The girls upon the cheek,

“Ere yet, in scorn of Peter’s-pence,
And number’d bead, and shrift,
Bluff Harry broke into the spence
And turn’d the cowls adrift:

“And I have seen some score of those
Fresh faces that would thrive
When his man-minded offset rose
To chase the deer at five;

“And all that from the town would stroll,
Till that wild wind made work
In which the gloomy brewer’s soul
Went by me, like a stork:

“The slight she-slips of royal blood,
And others, passing praise,
Straight-laced, but all-too-full in bud
For puritanic stays:

“And I have shadow’d many a group
Of beauties, that were born
In teacup-times of hood and hoop,
Or while the patch was worn;

“And, leg and arm with love-knots gay
About me leap’d and laugh’d
The modish Cupid of the day,
And shrill’d his tinsel shaft.

“I swear (and else may insects prick
Each leaf into a gall)
This girl, for whom your heart is sick,
Is three times worth them all.

“For those and theirs, by Nature’s law,
Have faded long ago;
But in these latter springs I saw
Your own Olivia blow,

“From when she gamboll’d on the greens
A baby-germ, to when
The maiden blossoms of her teens
Could number five from ten.

“I swear, by leaf, and wind, and rain,
(And hear me with thine ears,)
That, tho’ I circle in the grain
Five hundred rings of years—

“Yet, since I first could cast a shade,
Did never creature pass
So slightly, musically made,
So light upon the grass:

“For as to fairies, that will flit
To make the greensward fresh,
I hold them exquisitely knit,
But far too spare of flesh.”

Oh, hide thy knotted knees in fern,
And overlook the chace;
And from thy topmost branch discern
The roofs of Sumner-place.

But thou, whereon I carved her name,
That oft hast heard my vows,
Declare when last Olivia came
To sport beneath thy boughs.

“O yesterday, you know, the fair
Was holden at the town;
Her father left his good arm-chair,
And rode his hunter down.

“And with him Albert came on his.
I look’d at him with joy:
As cowslip unto oxlip is,
So seems she to the boy.

“An hour had past—and, sitting straight
Within the low-wheel’d chaise,
Her mother trundled to the gate
Behind the dappled grays.

“But as for her, she stay’d at home,
And on the roof she went,
And down the way you use to come,
She look’d with discontent.

“She left the novel half-uncut
Upon the rosewood shelf;
She left the new piano shut:
She could not please herseif

“Then ran she, gamesome as the colt,
And livelier than a lark
She sent her voice thro’ all the holt
Before her, and the park.

“A light wind chased her on the wing,
And in the chase grew wild,
As close as might be would he cling
About the darling child:

“But light as any wind that blows
So fleetly did she stir,
The flower, she touch’d on, dipt and rose,
And turn’d to look at her.

“And here she came, and round me play’d,
And sang to me the whole
Of those three stanzas that you made
About my Ôgiant bole;’

“And in a fit of frolic mirth
She strove to span my waist:
Alas, I was so broad of girth,
I could not be embraced.

“I wish’d myself the fair young beech
That here beside me stands,
That round me, clasping each in each,
She might have lock’d her hands.

“Yet seem’d the pressure thrice as sweet
As woodbine’s fragile hold,
Or when I feel about my feet
The berried briony fold.”

O muffle round thy knees with fern,
And shadow Sumner-chace!
Long may thy topmost branch discern
The roofs of Sumner-place!

But tell me, did she read the name
I carved with many vows
When last with throbbing heart I came
To rest beneath thy boughs?

“O yes, she wander’d round and round
These knotted knees of mine,
And found, and kiss’d the name she found,
And sweetly murmur’d thine.

“A teardrop trembled from its source,
And down my surface crept.
My sense of touch is something coarse,
But I believe she wept.

“Then flush’d her cheek with rosy light,
She glanced across the plain;
But not a creature was in sight:
She kiss’d me once again.

“Her kisses were so close and kind,
That, trust me on my word,
Hard wood I am, and wrinkled rind,
But yet my sap was stirr’d:

“And even into my inmost ring
A pleasure I discern’d,
Like those blind motions of the Spring,
That show the year is turn’d.

“Thrice-happy he that may caress
The ringlet’s waving balm—
The cushions of whose touch may press
The maiden’s tender palm.

“I, rooted here among the groves
But languidly adjust
My vapid vegetable loves
With anthers and with dust:

“For ah! my friend, the days were brief
Whereof the poets talk,
When that, which breathes within the leaf,
Could slip its bark and walk.

“But could I, as in times foregone,
From spray, and branch, and stem,
Have suck’d and gather’d into one
The life that spreads in them,

“She had not found me so remiss;
But lightly issuing thro’,
I would have paid her kiss for kiss,
With usury thereto.”

O flourish high, with leafy towers,
And overlook the lea,
Pursue thy loves among the bowers
But leave thou mine to me.

O flourish, hidden deep in fern,
Old oak, I love thee well;
A thousand thanks for what I learn
And what remains to tell.

” ÔTis little more: the day was warm;
At last, tired out with play,
She sank her head upon her arm
And at my feet she lay.

“Her eyelids dropp’d their silken eaves
I breathed upon her eyes
Thro’ all the summer of my leaves
A welcome mix’d with sighs.

“I took the swarming sound of life—
The music from the town—
The murmurs of the drum and fife
And lull’d them in my own.

“Sometimes I let a sunbeam slip,
To light her shaded eye;
A second flutter’d round her lip
Like a golden butterfly;

“A third would glimmer on her neck
To make the necklace shine;
Another slid, a sunny fleck,
From head to ankle fine,

“Then close and dark my arms I spread,
And shadow’d all her rest—
Dropt dews upon her golden head,
An acorn in her breast.

“But in a pet she started up,
And pluck’d it out, and drew
My little oakling from the cup,
And flung him in the dew.

“And yet it was a graceful gift—
I felt a pang within
As when I see the woodman lift
His axe to slay my kin.

“I shook him down because he was
The finest on the tree.
He lies beside thee on the grass.
O kiss him once for me.

“O kiss him twice and thrice for me,
That have no lips to kiss,
For never yet was oak on lea
Shall grow so fair as this.’

Step deeper yet in herb and fern,
Look further thro’ the chace,
Spread upward till thy boughs discern
The front of Sumner-place.

This fruit of thine by Love is blest,
That but a moment lay
Where fairer fruit of Love may rest
Some happy future day.

I kiss it twice, I kiss it thrice,
The warmth it thence shall win
To riper life may magnetise
The baby-oak within.

But thou, while kingdoms overset,
Or lapse from hand to hand,
Thy leaf shall never fail, nor yet
Thine acorn in the land.

May never saw dismember thee,
Nor wielded axe disjoint,
That art the fairest-spoken tree
From here to Lizard-point.

O rock upon thy towery-top
All throats that gurgle sweet!
All starry culmination drop
Balm-dews to bathe thy feet!

All grass of silky feather grow—
And while he sinks or swells
The full south-breeze around thee blow
The sound of minster bells.

The fat earth feed thy branchy root,
That under deeply strikes!
The northern morning o’er thee shoot,
High up, in silver spikes!

Nor ever lightning char thy grain,
But, rolling as in sleep,
Low thunders bring the mellow rain,
That makes thee broad and deep!

And hear me swear a solemn oath,
That only by thy side
Will I to Olive plight my troth,
And gain her for my bride.

And when my marriage morn may fall,
She, Dryad-like, shall wear
Alternate leaf and acorn-ball
In wreath about her hair.

And I will work in prose and rhyme,
And praise thee more in both
Than bard has honour’d beech or lime,
Or that Thessalian growth,

In which the swarthy ringdove sat,
And mystic sentence spoke;
And more than England honours that,
Thy famous brother-oak,

Wherein the younger Charles abode
Till all the paths were dim,
And far below the Roundhead rode,
And humm’d a surly hymn.

 

– Alfred Lord Tennyson

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