Tennyson's Poems

The Miller's Daughter

First published in 1833. It was greatly altered when republished in 1842, and in some respects, so Fitzgerald thought, not for the better. No alterations of much importance were made in it after 1842. The characters as well as the scenery were, it seems, purely imaginary. Tennyson said that if he thought of any mill it was that of Trumpington, near Cambridge, which bears a general resemblance to the picture here given.

In the first edition the poem opened with the following stanza, which the 'Quarterly' ridiculed, and which was afterwards excised. Its omission is surely not to be regretted, whatever Fitzgerald may have thought.

I met in all the close green ways,

While walking with my line and rod,

The wealthy miller's mealy face,

Like the moon in an ivy-tod.

He looked so jolly and so good--

While fishing in the milldam-water,

I laughed to see him as he stood,

And dreamt not of the miller's daughter.

* * * * * *

I see the wealthy miller yet,

His double chin, his portly size,

And who that knew him could forget

The busy wrinkles round his eyes?

The slow wise smile that, round about

His dusty forehead drily curl'd,

Seem'd half-within and half-without,

And full of dealings with the world?

In yonder chair I see him sit,

Three fingers round the old silver cup--

I see his gray eyes twinkle yet

At his own jest--gray eyes lit up

With summer lightnings of a soul

So full of summer warmth, so glad,

So healthy, sound, and clear and whole,

His memory scarce can make me [1] sad.

Yet fill my glass: give me one kiss:

My own sweet [2] Alice, we must die.

There's somewhat in this world amiss

Shall be unriddled by and by.

There's somewhat flows to us in life,

But more is taken quite away.

Pray, Alice, pray, my darling wife, [3]

That we may die the self-same day.

Have I not found a happy earth?

I least should breathe a thought of pain.

Would God renew me from my birth

I'd almost live my life again.

So sweet it seems with thee to walk,

And once again to woo thee mine--

It seems in after-dinner talk

Across the walnuts and the wine--[4]

To be the long and listless boy

Late-left an orphan of the squire,

Where this old mansion mounted high

Looks down upon the village spire: [5]

For even here, [6] where I and you

Have lived and loved alone so long,

Each morn my sleep was broken thro'

By some wild skylark's matin song.

And oft I heard the tender dove

In firry woodlands making moan; [7]

But ere I saw your eyes, my love,

I had no motion of my own.

For scarce my life with fancy play'd

Before I dream'd that pleasant dream--

Still hither thither idly sway'd

Like those long mosses [8] in the stream.

Or from the bridge I lean'd to hear

The milldam rushing down with noise,

And see the minnows everywhere

In crystal eddies glance and poise,

The tall flag-flowers when [9] they sprung

Below the range of stepping-stones,

Or those three chestnuts near, that hung

In masses thick with milky cones. [10]

But, Alice, what an hour was that,

When after roving in the woods

('Twas April then), I came and sat

Below the chestnuts, when their buds

Were glistening to the breezy blue;

And on the slope, an absent fool,

I cast me down, nor thought of you,

But angled in the higher pool. [11]

A love-song I had somewhere read,

An echo from a measured strain,

Beat time to nothing in my head

From some odd corner of the brain.

It haunted me, the morning long,

With weary sameness in the rhymes,

The phantom of a silent song,

That went and came a thousand times.

Then leapt a trout. In lazy mood

I watch'd the little circles die;

They past into the level flood,

And there a vision caught my eye;

The reflex of a beauteous form,

A glowing arm, a gleaming neck,

As when a sunbeam wavers warm

Within the dark and dimpled beck. [12]

For you remember, you had set,

That morning, on the casement's edge [13]

A long green box of mignonette,

And you were leaning from the ledge:

And when I raised my eyes, above

They met with two so full and bright--

Such eyes! I swear to you, my love,

That these have never lost their light. [14]

I loved, and love dispell'd the fear

That I should die an early death:

For love possess'd the atmosphere,

And filled the breast with purer breath.

My mother thought, What ails the boy?

For I was alter'd, and began

To move about the house with joy,

And with the certain step of man.

I loved the brimming wave that swam

Thro' quiet meadows round the mill,

The sleepy pool above the dam,

The pool beneath it never still,

The meal-sacks on the whiten'd floor,

The dark round of the dripping wheel,

The very air about the door

Made misty with the floating meal.

And oft in ramblings on the wold,

When April nights begin to blow,

And April's crescent glimmer'd cold,

I saw the village lights below;

I knew your taper far away,

And full at heart of trembling hope,

From off the wold I came, and lay

Upon the freshly-flower'd slope. [15]

The deep brook groan'd beneath the mill;

And "by that lamp," I thought "she sits!"

The white chalk-quarry [16] from the hill

Gleam'd to the flying moon by fits.

"O that I were beside her now!

O will she answer if I call?

O would she give me vow for vow,

Sweet Alice, if I told her all?" [17]

Sometimes I saw you sit and spin;

And, in the pauses of the wind,

Sometimes I heard you sing within;

Sometimes your shadow cross'd the blind.

At last you rose and moved the light,

And the long shadow of the chair

Flitted across into the night,

And all the casement darken'd there.

But when at last I dared to speak,

The lanes, you know, were white with may,

Your ripe lips moved not, but your cheek

Flush'd like the coming of the day; [18]

And so it was--half-sly, half-shy, [19]

You would, and would not, little one!

Although I pleaded tenderly,

And you and I were all alone.

And slowly was my mother brought

To yield consent to my desire:

She wish'd me happy, but she thought

I might have look'd a little higher;

And I was young--too young to wed:

"Yet must I love her for your sake;

Go fetch your Alice here," she said:

Her eyelid quiver'd as she spake.

And down I went to fetch my bride:

But, Alice, you were ill at ease;

This dress and that by turns you tried,

Too fearful that you should not please.

I loved you better for your fears,

I knew you could not look but well;

And dews, that would have fall'n in tears,

I kiss'd away before they fell. [20]

I watch'd the little flutterings,

The doubt my mother would not see;

She spoke at large of many things,

And at the last she spoke of me;

And turning look'd upon your face,

As near this door you sat apart,

And rose, and, with a silent grace

Approaching, press'd you heart to heart. [21]

Ah, well--but sing the foolish song

I gave you, Alice, on the day [22]

When, arm in arm, we went along,

A pensive pair, and you were gay,

With bridal flowers--that I may seem,

As in the nights of old, to lie

Beside the mill-wheel in the stream,

While those full chestnuts whisper by. [23]

It is the miller's daughter,

And she is grown so dear, so dear,

That I would be the jewel

That trembles at [24] 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. [25]

And I would be the necklace,

And all day long to fall and rise [26]

Upon her balmy bosom,

With her laughter or her sighs,

And I would lie so light, so light, [27]

I scarce should be [28] unclasp'd at night.

A trifle, sweet! which true love spells

True love interprets--right alone.

His light upon the letter dwells,

For all the spirit is his own. [29]

So, if I waste words now, in truth

You must blame Love. His early rage

Had force to make me rhyme in youth

And makes me talk too much in age. [30]

And now those vivid hours are gone,

Like mine own life to me thou art,

Where Past and Present, wound in one,

Do make a garland for the heart:

So sing [31] that other song I made,

Half anger'd with my happy lot,

The day, when in the chestnut shade

I found the blue Forget-me-not. [32]

Love that hath us in the net, [33]

Can he pass, and we forget?

Many suns arise and set.

Many a chance the years beget.

Love the gift is Love the debt.

Even so.

Love is hurt with jar and fret.

Love is made a vague regret.

Eyes with idle tears are wet.

Idle habit links us yet.

What is love? for we forget:

Ah, no! no! [34]

Look thro' mine eyes with thine. True wife,

Round my true heart thine arms entwine;

My other dearer life in life,

Look thro' my very soul with thine!

Untouch'd with any shade of years,

May those kind eyes for ever dwell!

They have not shed a many tears,

Dear eyes, since first I knew them well.

Yet tears they shed: they had their part

Of sorrow: for when time was ripe,

The still affection of the heart

Became an outward breathing type,

That into stillness past again,

And left a want unknown before;

Although the loss that brought us pain,

That loss but made us love the more.

With farther lookings on. The kiss,

The woven arms, seem but to be

Weak symbols of the settled bliss,

The comfort, I have found in thee:

But that God bless thee, dear--who wrought

Two spirits to one equal mind--

With blessings beyond hope or thought,

With blessings which no words can find.

Arise, and let us wander forth,

To yon old mill across the wolds;

For look, the sunset, south and north, [35]

Winds all the vale in rosy folds,

And fires your narrow casement glass,

Touching the sullen pool below:

On the chalk-hill the bearded grass

Is dry and dewless. Let us go.

[Footnote 1: 1833. Scarce makes me.]

[Footnote 2: 1833. Darling.]

[Footnote 3: 1833. Own sweet wife.]

[Footnote 4: This stanza was added in 1842.]

[Footnote 5: 1833.]

My father's mansion, mounted high

Looked down upon the village spire.

I was a long and listless boy,

And son and heir unto the squire.

[Footnote 6: 1833. In these dear walls.]

[Footnote 7: 1833.]

I often heard the cooing dove

In firry woodlands mourn alone.

[Footnote 8: 1833. The long mosses.]

[Footnote 9: 1842-1851. Where.]

[Footnote 10: This stanza was added in 1842, taking the place of the] following which was excised:--

Sometimes I whistled in the wind,

Sometimes I angled, thought and deed

Torpid, as swallows left behind

That winter 'neath the floating weed:

At will to wander every way

From brook to brook my sole delight,

As lithe eels over meadows gray

Oft shift their glimmering pool by night.

In 1833 this stanza ran thus:--

I loved from off the bridge to hear

The rushing sound the water made,

And see the fish that everywhere

In the back-current glanced and played;

Low down the tall flag-flower that sprung

Beside the noisy stepping-stones,

And the massed chestnut boughs that hung

Thick-studded over with white cones,

[Footnote 11: In 1833 the following took the place of the above stanza] which was added in 1842:--

How dear to me in youth, my love,

Was everything about the mill,

The black and silent pool above,

The pool beneath that ne'er stood still,

The meal sacks on the whitened floor,

The dark round of the dripping wheel,

The very air about the door--

Made misty with the floating meal!

Thus in 1833:--

Remember you that pleasant day

When, after roving in the woods,

('Twas April then) I came and lay

Beneath those gummy chestnut bud

That glistened in the April blue,

Upon the slope so smooth and cool,

I lay and never thought of _you_,

But angled in the deep mill pool.

[Footnote 12: Thus in 1833:--]

A water-rat from off the bank

Plunged in the stream. With idle care,

Downlooking thro' the sedges rank,

I saw your troubled image there.

Upon the dark and dimpled beck

It wandered like a floating light,

A full fair form, a warm white neck,

And two white arms--how rosy white!

[Footnote 13: 1872. Casement-edge.]

[Footnote 14: Thus in 1833:--]

If you remember, you had set

Upon the narrow casement-edge

A long green box of mignonette,

And you were leaning from the ledge.

I raised my eyes at once: above

They met two eyes so blue and bright,

Such eyes! I swear to you, my love,

That they have never lost their light.

After this stanza the following was inserted in 1833 but excised in 1842:--

That slope beneath the chestnut tall

Is wooed with choicest breaths of air:

Methinks that I could tell you all

The cowslips and the kingcups there.

Each coltsfoot down the grassy bent,

Whose round leaves hold the gathered shower,

Each quaintly-folded cuckoo pint,

And silver-paly cuckoo flower.

[Footnote 15: Thus in 1833:--]

In rambling on the eastern wold,

When thro' the showery April nights

Their hueless crescent glimmered cold,

From all the other village lights

I knew your taper far away.

My heart was full of trembling hope,

Down from the wold I came and lay

Upon the dewy-swarded slope.

[Footnote 16; Mr. Cuming Walters in his interesting volume 'In Tennyson] Land', p. 75, notices that the white chalk quarry at Thetford can be seen from Stockworth Mill, which seems to show that if Tennyson did take the mill from Trumpington he must also have had his mind on Thetford Mill. Tennyson seems to have taken delight in baffling those who wished to localise his scenes. He went out of his way to say that the topographical studies of Messrs. Church and Napier were the only ones which could he relied upon. But Mr. Cuming Walters' book is far more satisfactory than their thin studies.

[Footnote 17: Thus in 1833:--]

The white chalk quarry from the hill

Upon the broken ripple gleamed,

I murmured lowly, sitting still,

While round my feet the eddy streamed:

"Oh! that I were the wreath she wreathes,

The mirror where her sight she feeds,

The song she sings, the air she breathes,

The letters of the books she reads".

[Footnote 18: 1833.]

I loved, but when I dared to speak

My love, the lanes were white with May

Your ripe lips moved not, but your cheek

Flushed like the coming of the day.

[Footnote 19: 1833. Rosecheekt, roselipt, half-sly, half-shy.]

[Footnote 20: Cf. Milton, 'Paradise Lost';--]

Two other precious drops that ready stood

He, ere they fell, kiss'd.

[Footnote 21: These three stanzas were added in 1842, the following] being excised:--

Remember you the clear moonlight,

That whitened all the eastern ridge,

When o'er the water, dancing white,

I stepped upon the old mill-bridge.

I heard you whisper from above

A lute-toned whisper, "I am here";

I murmured, "Speak again, my love,

The stream is loud: I cannot hear ".

I heard, as I have seemed to hear,

When all the under-air was still,

The low voice of the glad new year

Call to the freshly-flowered hill.

I heard, as I have often heard

The nightingale in leavy woods

Call to its mate, when nothing stirred

To left or right but falling floods.

[Footnote 22: 1842. I gave you on the joyful day.]

[Footnote 23: In 1833 the following stanza took the place of the one] here substituted in 1842:--

Come, Alice, sing to me the song

I made you on our marriage day,

When, arm in arm, we went along

Half-tearfully, and you were gay

With brooch and ring: for I shall seem,

The while you sing that song, to hear

The mill-wheel turning in the stream,

And the green chestnut whisper near.

In 1833 the song began thus, the present stanza taking its place in 1842:--

I wish I were her earring,

Ambushed in auburn ringlets sleek,

(So might my shadow tremble

Over her downy cheek),

Hid in her hair, all day and night,

Touching her neck so warm and white.

[Footnote 24: 1872. In.]

[Footnote 25: 1833.]

I wish I were the girdle

Buckled about her dainty waist,

That her heart might beat against me,

In sorrow and in rest.

I should know well if it beat right,

I'd clasp it round so close and tight.

This stanza bears so close a resemblance to a stanza in Joshua Sylvester's 'Woodman's Bear' (see Sylvester's 'Works', ed. 1641, p. 616) that a correspondent asked Tennyson whether Sylvester had suggested it. Tennyson replied that he had never seen Sylvester's lines ('Life of Tennyson', iii., 51). The lines are:--

But her slender virgin waste

Made mee beare her girdle spight

Which the same by day imbrac't

Though it were cast off by night

That I wisht, I dare not say,

To be girdle night and day.

For other parallels see the present Editor's 'Illustrations of Tennyson', p. 39.

[Footnote 26: 1833.]

I wish I were her necklace,

So might I ever fall and rise.

[Footnote 27: 1833. So warm and light.]

[Footnote 28: 1833. I would not be.]

[Footnote 29: 1833.]

For o'er each letter broods and dwells,

(Like light from running waters thrown

On flowery swaths) the blissful flame

Of his sweet eyes, that, day and night,

With pulses thrilling thro' his frame

Do inly tremble, starry bright.

[Footnote 30: Thus in 1833:--]

How I waste language--yet in truth

You must blame love, whose early rage

Made me a rhymster in my youth,

And over-garrulous in age.

[Footnote 31: 1833. Sing me.]

[Footnote 32: 1833.]

When in the breezy limewood-shade.

I found the blue forget-me-not.

[Footnote 33: In 1833 the following song took the place of the song in] the text:--

All yesternight you met me not,

My ladylove, forget me not.

When I am gone, regret me not.

But, here or there, forget me not.

With your arched eyebrow threat me not,

And tremulous eyes, like April skies,

That seem to say, "forget me not,"

I pray you, love, forget me not.

In idle sorrow set me not;

Regret me not; forget me not;

Oh! leave me not: oh, let me not

Wear quite away;--forget me not.

With roguish laughter fret me not.

From dewy eyes, like April skies,

That ever _look_, "forget me not".

Blue as the blue forget-me-not.

[Footnote 34: These two stanzas were added in 1842.]

[Footnote 35: 1833.]

I've half a mind to walk, my love,

To the old mill across the wolds

For look! the sunset from above,