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Classics Club #97: ‘Collected Poems’ by Alfred Lord Tennyson *****

Words cannot describe how much I absolutely adore the poetry of Alfred Lord Tennyson.  Ever since first coming across him in my teens, I have been struck by the beautiful images which he sculpts, the history and mythology which he weaves in, and the sheer power of the language choices which he makes.  Reading his Collected Poems for my Classics Club challenge this summer was the third time in which I have settled down to do so.  Whilst I sadly did not make it through the entire volume this time around due to time constraints, I loved the process, and re-reading his poems felt as though I was in the company of the oldest and most comfortable of friends.

Rather than wax lyrical about his poems too much, I thought I would just share a few of my favourite fragments with you.

From In Memoriam A.H.H.:
“Dark house, by which once more I stand
Here in the long unlovely street,
Doors, where my heart was used to beat
So quickly, waiting for a hand,
A hand that can be clasp’d no more–
Behold me, for I cannot sleep,
And like a guilty thing I creep
At earliest morning to the door.
He is not here; but far away
The noise of life begins again,
And ghastly thro’ the drizzling rain
On the bald street breaks the blank day. ”


From Mariana:
“With blackest moss the flower-plots
Were thickly crusted, one and all:
The rusted nails fell from the knots
That held the pear to the gable-wall.
The broken sheds look’d sad and strange:
Unlifted was the clinking latch;
Weeded and worn the ancient thatch
Upon the lonely moated grange.
She only said, “My life is dreary,
He cometh not,” she said;
She said, “I am aweary, aweary,
I would that I were dead!””

And finally, from my absolute favourite, The Lady of Shalott:

“On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And thro’ the field the road runs by
       To many-tower’d Camelot;
And up and down the people go,
Gazing where the lilies blow
Round an island there below,
       The island of Shalott.

Willows whiten, aspens quiver,

Little breezes dusk and shiver
Thro’ the wave that runs for ever
By the island in the river
       Flowing down to Camelot.
Four gray walls, and four gray towers,
Overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle imbowers
       The Lady of Shalott.

By the margin, willow veil’d,
Slide the heavy barges trail’d
By slow horses; and unhail’d
The shallop flitteth silken-sail’d
       Skimming down to Camelot:
But who hath seen her wave her hand?
Or at the casement seen her stand?
Or is she known in all the land,
       The Lady of Shalott?”

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