Tennyson's Poems


First printed in 1830.


Mystery of mysteries,

Faintly smiling Adeline,

Scarce of earth nor all divine,

Nor unhappy, nor at rest,

But beyond expression fair

With thy floating flaxen hair;

Thy rose-lips and full blue eyes

Take the heart from out my breast.

Wherefore those dim looks of thine,

Shadowy, dreaming Adeline?


Whence that aery bloom of thine,

Like a lily which the sun

Looks thro' in his sad decline,

And a rose-bush leans upon,

Thou that faintly smilest still,

As a Naiad in a well,

Looking at the set of day,

Or a phantom two hours old

Of a maiden passed away,

Ere the placid lips be cold?

Wherefore those faint smiles of thine,

Spiritual Adeline?


What hope or fear or joy is thine?

Who talketh with thee, Adeline?

For sure thou art not all alone:

Do beating hearts of salient springs

Keep measure with thine own?

Hast thou heard the butterflies

What they say betwixt their wings?

Or in stillest evenings

With what voice the violet woos

To his heart the silver dews?

Or when little airs arise,

How the merry bluebell rings [1]

To the mosses underneath?

Hast thou look'd upon the breath

Of the lilies at sunrise?

Wherefore that faint smile of thine,

Shadowy, dreaming Adeline?


Some honey-converse feeds thy mind,

Some spirit of a crimson rose

In love with thee forgets to close

His curtains, wasting odorous sighs

All night long on darkness blind.

What aileth thee? whom waitest thou

With thy soften'd, shadow'd brow,

And those dew-lit eyes of thine, [2]

Thou faint smiler, Adeline?


Lovest thou the doleful wind

When thou gazest at the skies?

Doth the low-tongued Orient [3]

Wander from the side of [4] the morn,

Dripping with Sabsean spice

On thy pillow, lowly bent

With melodious airs lovelorn,

Breathing Light against thy face,

While his locks a-dropping [5] twined

Round thy neck in subtle ring

Make a 'carcanet of rays',[6]

And ye talk together still,

In the language wherewith Spring

Letters cowslips on the hill?

Hence that look and smile of thine,

Spiritual Adeline.

[Footnote 1: This conceit seems to have been borrowed from Shelley,] 'Sensitive Plant', i.:--

And the hyacinth, purple and white and blue,

Which flung from its bells a sweet peal anew

Of music.

[Footnote 2: 'Cf'. Collins, 'Ode to Pity', "and 'eyes of dewy light'".]

[Footnote 3: What "the low-tongued Orient" may mean I cannot explain.]

[Footnote 4: 1830 and all editions till 1853. O'.]

[Footnote 5: 1863. A-drooping.]

[Footnote 6: A carcanet is a necklace, diminutive from old French] "Carcan". Cf. 'Comedy of Errors', in., i, "To see the making of her 'Carcanet".