Tennyson's Poems


First printed in 1833.

The 1833 edition has no title but this quotation from Sappho prefixed:--

'Phainetai moi kaenos isos theoisin Emmen anaer'--SAPPHO.

The title was prefixed in 1842; it is a name taken from 'The Arabian Nights' or from the Moallakat. The poem was evidently inspired by Sappho's great ode. 'Cf.' also Fragment I. of Ibycus. In the intensity of the passion it stands alone among Tennyson's poems.

O Love, Love, Love! O withering might!

O sun, that from [1] thy noonday height

Shudderest when I strain my sight,

Throbbing thro' all thy heat and light,

Lo, falling from my constant mind,

Lo, parch'd and wither'd, deaf and blind,

I whirl like leaves in roaring wind.

Last night I wasted hateful hours

Below the city's eastern towers:

I thirsted for the brooks, the showers:

I roll'd among the tender flowers:

I crush'd them on my breast, my mouth:

I look'd athwart the burning drouth

Of that long desert to the south. [2]

Last night, when some one spoke his name, [3]

From my swift blood that went and came

A thousand little shafts of flame.

Were shiver'd in my narrow frame

O Love, O fire! once he drew

With one long kiss, my whole soul thro'

My lips, as sunlight drinketh dew. [4]

Before he mounts the hill, I know

He cometh quickly: from below

Sweet gales, as from deep gardens, blow

Before him, striking on my brow.

In my dry brain my spirit soon,

Down-deepening from swoon to swoon,

Faints like a dazzled morning moon.

The wind sounds like a silver wire,

And from beyond the noon a fire

Is pour'd upon the hills, and nigher

The skies stoop down in their desire;

And, isled in sudden seas of light,

My heart, pierced thro' with fierce delight,

Bursts into blossom in his sight.

My whole soul waiting silently,

All naked in a sultry sky,

Droops blinded with his shining eye:

I 'will' possess him or will die.

I will grow round him in his place,

Grow, live, die looking on his face,

Die, dying clasp'd in his embrace.

[Footnote 1: 1833. At.]

[Footnote 2: This stanza was added in 1842.]

[Footnote 3: 'Cf.' Byron, 'Occasional Pieces':--]

They name thee before me A knell to mine ear, A shudder comes o'er me, Why wert thou so dear?

[Footnote 4: 'Cf,' Achilles Tatius, 'Clitophon and Leucippe', bk. i., I:]

[Greek: 'AEde (psyche) tarachtheisa tps philaemati palletai, ei de] mae tois splagchnois in dedemenae aekolouthaesen an elkaetheisa ano tois philaemasin.'

(Her soul, distracted by the kiss, throbs, and had it not been close bound by the flesh would have followed, drawn upward by the kisses.)