Tennyson's Poems

"Of Old Sat Freedom On The Heights..."

First published in 1842, but it seems to have been written in 1834. The fourth and fifth stanzas are given in a postscript of a letter from Tennyson to James Spedding, dated 1834.

Of old sat Freedom on the heights,

The thunders breaking at her feet:

Above her shook the starry lights:

She heard the torrents meet.

There in her place [1] she did rejoice,

Self-gather'd in her prophet-mind,

But fragments of her mighty voice

Came rolling on the wind.

Then stept she down thro' town and field

To mingle with the human race,

And part by part to men reveal'd

The fullness of her face--

Grave mother of majestic works,

From her isle-altar gazing down,

Who, God-like, grasps the triple forks, [2]

And, King-like, wears the crown:

Her open eyes desire the truth.

The wisdom of a thousand years

Is in them. May perpetual youth

Keep dry their light from tears;

That her fair form may stand and shine,

Make bright our days and light our dreams,

Turning to scorn with lips divine

The falsehood of extremes!

[Footnote 1: 1842 to 1850 inclusive. Within her place. Altered to] present reading, 1850.

[Footnote 2: The "trisulci ignes" or "trisulca tela" of the Roman] poets.