Tennyson's Poems

Choric Song


There is sweet music here that softer falls

Than petals from blown roses on the grass,

Or night-dews on still waters between walls

Of shadowy granite, in a gleaming pass;

Music that gentlier on the spirit lies,

Than tir'd eyelids upon tir'd eyes;

Music that brings sweet sleep down from the blissful skies.

Here are cool mosses deep,

And thro' the moss the ivies creep,

And in the stream the long-leaved flowers weep,

And from the craggy ledge the poppy hangs in sleep.


Why are we weigh'd upon with heaviness,

And utterly consumed with sharp distress,

While all things else have rest from weariness?

All things have rest: why should we toil alone,

We only toil, who are the first of things,

And make perpetual moan,

Still from one sorrow to another thrown:

Nor ever fold our wings,

And cease from wanderings,

Nor steep our brows in slumber's holy balm;

Nor harken what the inner spirit sings,

"There is no joy but calm!"

Why should we only toil, the roof and crown of things?


Lo! in the middle of the wood,

The folded leaf is woo'd from out the bud

With winds upon the branch, and there

Grows green and broad, and takes no care,

Sun-steep'd at noon, and in the moon

Nightly dew-fed; and turning yellow

Falls, and floats adown the air.

Lo! sweeten'd with the summer light,

The full-juiced apple, waxing over-mellow,

Drops in a silent autumn night.

All its allotted length of days,

The flower ripens in its place,

Ripens and fades, and falls, and hath no toil,

Fast-rooted in the fruitful soil.


Hateful is the dark-blue sky,

Vaulted o'er the dark-blue sea. [1]

Death is the end of life; ah, why

Should life all labour be?

Let us alone.

Time driveth onward fast,

And in a little while our lips are dumb.

Let us alone.

What is it that will last?

All things are taken from us, and become

Portions and parcels of the dreadful Past.

Let us alone.

What pleasure can we have

To war with evil? Is there any peace

In ever climbing up the climbing wave? [2]

All things have rest, and ripen toward the grave [3]

In silence; ripen, fall and cease:

Give us long rest or death, dark death, or dreamful ease.


How sweet it were, hearing the downward stream,

With half-shut eyes ever to seem

Falling asleep in a half-dream!

To dream and dream, like yonder amber light,

Which will not leave the myrrh-bush on the height;

To hear each other's whisper'd speech:

Eating the Lotos day by day,

To watch the crisping ripples on the beach,

And tender curving lines of creamy spray;

To lend our hearts and spirits wholly

To the influence of mild-minded melancholy;

To muse and brood and live again in memory,

With those [4] old faces of our infancy

Heap'd over with a mound of grass,

Two handfuls of white dust, shut in an urn of brass!


Dear is the memory of our wedded lives,

And dear the last embraces of our wives

And their warm tears: but all hath suffer'd change;

For surely now our household hearths are cold:

Our sons inherit us: our looks are strange:

And we should come like ghosts to trouble joy.

Or else the island princes over-bold

Have eat our substance, and the minstrel sings

Before them of the ten-years' war in Troy,

And our great deeds, as half-forgotten things.

Is there confusion in the little isle? [5]

Let what is broken so remain.

The Gods are hard to reconcile:

'Tis hard to settle order once again.

There 'is' confusion worse than death,

Trouble on trouble, pain on pain,

Long labour unto aged breath,

Sore task to hearts worn out with [6] many wars

And eyes grow dim with gazing on the pilot-stars.[7]


But, propt on beds [8] of amaranth and moly,

How sweet (while warm airs lull us, blowing lowly)

With half-dropt eyelids still,

Beneath a heaven dark and holy,

To watch the long bright river drawing slowly

His waters from the purple hill--

To hear the dewy echoes calling

From cave to cave thro' the thick-twined vine--

To watch [9] the emerald-colour'd water falling

Thro' many a wov'n acanthus-wreath divine!

Only to hear and see the far-off sparkling brine,

Only to hear were sweet, stretch'd out beneath the pine.


The Lotos blooms below the barren peak: [9]

The Lotos blows by every winding creek:

All day the wind breathes low with mellower tone:

Thro' every hollow cave and alley lone

Round and round the spicy downs the yellow Lotos-dust is blown.

We have had enough of action, and of motion we,

Roll'd to starboard, roll'd to larboard, when the surge was seething


Where the wallowing monster spouted his foam-fountains in the sea.

Let us swear an oath, and keep it with an equal mind,

In the hollow Lotos-land to live and lie reclined

On the hills like Gods together, careless of mankind.

For they lie beside their nectar, and the bolts are hurl'd

Far below them in the valleys, and the clouds are lightly curl'd

Round their golden houses, girdled with the gleaming world:

Where they smile in secret, looking over wasted lands,

Blight and famine, plague and earthquake, roaring deeps and fiery


Clanging fights, and flaming towns, and sinking ships and praying


But they smile, they find a music centred in a doleful song

Steaming up, a lamentation and an ancient tale of wrong,

Like a tale of little meaning tho' the words are strong;

Chanted from an ill-used race of men that cleave the soil,

Sow the seed, and reap the harvest with enduring toil,

Storing yearly little dues of wheat, and wine and oil;

Till they perish and they suffer--some,'tis whisper'd--down in hell

Suffer endless anguish, others in Elysian valleys dwell,

Resting weary limbs at last on beds of asphodel.

Surely, surely, slumber is more sweet than toil, the shore

Than labour in the deep mid-ocean, wind and wave and oar;

Oh rest ye, brother mariners, we will not wander more. [10]

[Footnote 1: 'Cf.' Virgil, AEn., iv., 451:--]

Taedet caeli convexa tueri.

Paraphrased from Moschus, 'Idyll', v., 11-15.

[Footnote 2: For climbing up the wave 'cf.' Virgil, 'AEn.',] i., 381: "Conscendi navilus aequor," and 'cf.' generally Bion, 'Idyll', v., 11-15.

[Footnote 3: From Moschus, 'Idyll', v.,'passim'.]

[Footnote 4: 1833. The.]

[Footnote 5: The little isle, 'i. e.', Ithaca.]

[Footnote 6: 1863 By.]

[Footnote 7: Added in 1842.]

[Footnote 8: 1833. Or, propt on lavish beds.]

[Footnote 9: 1833 to 1850 inclusive. Hear.]

[Footnote 10: 1833 to 1850 inclusive. Flowery peak.]

[Footnote 11: In 1833 we have the following, which in 1842 was excised] and the present text substituted:--

We have had enough of motion,

Weariness and wild alarm,

Tossing on the tossing ocean,

Where the tusked sea-horse walloweth

In a stripe of grass-green calm,

At noontide beneath the lee;

And the monstrous narwhale swalloweth

His foam-fountains in the sea.

Long enough the wine-dark wave our weary bark did carry.

This is lovelier and sweeter,

Men of Ithaca, this is meeter,

In the hollow rosy vale to tarry,

Like a dreamy Lotos-eater, a delirious Lotos-eater!

We will eat the Lotos, sweet

As the yellow honeycomb,

In the valley some, and some

On the ancient heights divine;

And no more roam,

On the loud hoar foam,

To the melancholy home

At the limit of the brine,

The little isle of Ithaca, beneath the day's decline.

We'll lift no more the shattered oar,

No more unfurl the straining sail;

With the blissful Lotos-eaters pale

We will abide in the golden vale

Of the Lotos-land till the Lotos fail;

We will not wander more.

Hark! how sweet the horned ewes bleat

On the solitary steeps,

And the merry lizard leaps,

And the foam-white waters pour;

And the dark pine weeps,

And the lithe vine creeps,

And the heavy melon sleeps

On the level of the shore:

Oh! islanders of Ithaca, we will not wander more,

Surely, surely slumber is more sweet than toil, the shore

Than labour in the ocean, and rowing with the oar,

Oh! islanders of Ithaca, we will return no more.

The fine picture in the text of the gods of Epicurus was no doubt immediately suggested by 'Lucretius', iii., 15 'seq.', while the 'Icaromenippus' of Lucian furnishes an excellent commentary on Tennyson's picture of those gods and what they see. 'Cf.' too the Song of the Parcae in Goethe's 'Iphigenie auf Tauris', iv., 5.