Tennyson's Poems

To J.S.

First published in 1833.

This beautiful poem was addressed to James Spedding on the death of his brother Edward.

The wind, that beats the mountain, blows

More softly round the open wold, [1]

And gently comes the world to those

That are cast in gentle mould.

And me this knowledge bolder made,

Or else I had not dared to flow [2]

In these words toward you, and invade

Even with a verse your holy woe.

'Tis strange that those we lean on most,

Those in whose laps our limbs are nursed,

Fall into shadow, soonest lost:

Those we love first are taken first.

God gives us love. Something to love

He lends us; but, when love is grown

To ripeness, that on which it throve

Falls off, and love is left alone.

This is the curse of time. Alas!

In grief I am not all unlearn'd;

Once thro' mine own doors Death did pass; [3]

One went, who never hath return'd.

He will not smile--nor speak to me

Once more. Two years his chair is seen

Empty before us. That was he

Without whose life I had not been.

Your loss is rarer; for this star

Rose with you thro' a little arc

Of heaven, nor having wander'd far

Shot on the sudden into dark.

I knew your brother: his mute dust

I honour and his living worth:

A man more pure and bold [4] and just

Was never born into the earth.

I have not look'd upon you nigh,

Since that dear soul hath fall'n asleep.

Great Nature is more wise than I:

I will not tell you not to weep.

And tho' mine own eyes fill with dew,

Drawn from the spirit thro' the brain, [5]

I will not even preach to you,

"Weep, weeping dulls the inward pain".

Let Grief be her own mistress still.

She loveth her own anguish deep

More than much pleasure. Let her will

Be done--to weep or not to weep.

I will not say "God's ordinance

Of Death is blown in every wind";

For that is not a common chance

That takes away a noble mind.

His memory long will live alone

In all our hearts, as mournful light

That broods above the fallen sun, [6]

And dwells in heaven half the night.

Vain solace! Memory standing near

Cast down her eyes, and in her throat

Her voice seem'd distant, and a tear

Dropt on the letters [7] as I wrote.

I wrote I know not what. In truth,

How _should_ I soothe you anyway,

Who miss the brother of your youth?

Yet something I did wish to say:

For he too was a friend to me:

Both are my friends, and my true breast

Bleedeth for both; yet it may be

That only [8] silence suiteth best.

Words weaker than your grief would make

Grief more. 'Twere better I should cease;

Although myself could almost take [9]

The place of him that sleeps in peace.

Sleep sweetly, tender heart, in peace:

Sleep, holy spirit, blessed soul,

While the stars burn, the moons increase,

And the great ages onward roll.

Sleep till the end, true soul and sweet.

Nothing comes to thee new or strange.

Sleep full of rest from head to feet;

Lie still, dry dust, secure of change.

[Footnote 1: Possibly suggested by Tasso, 'Gerus.', lib. xx., st.] lviii.:--

Qual vento a cui s'oppone o selva o colle

Doppia nella contesa i soffi e l' ira;

Ma con fiato piu placido e piu molle

Per le compagne libere poi spira.

[Footnote 2: 1833.]

My heart this knowledge bolder made,

Or else it had not dared to flow.

Altered in 1842.

[Footnote 3: Tennyson's father died in March, 1831.]

[Footnote 4: 1833. Mild.]

[Footnote 5: 'Cf.' Gray's Alcaic stanza on West's death:--]

O lacrymarum fons tenero sacros

'Ducentium ortus ex animo'.

[Footnote 6: 1833. Sunken sun. Altered to present reading, 1842. The] image may have been suggested by Henry Vaughan, 'Beyond the Veil':--

Their very memory is fair and bright,


It glows and glitters in my cloudy breast Like stars


Or those faint beams in which the hill is drest

After the sun's remove.

[Footnote 7: 1833, 1842, 1843. My tablets. This affected phrase was] altered to the present reading in 1845.

[Footnote 8: 1833. Holy. Altered to "only," 1842.]

[Footnote 9: 1833. Altho' to calm you I would take. Altered to present] reading, 1842.