Tennyson's Poems

The Sisters

First published in 1833.

The only alterations which have been made in it since have simply consisted in the alteration of "'an'" for "and" in the third line of each stanza, and "through and through" for "thro' and thro'" in line 29, and "wrapt" for "wrapped" in line 34. It is curious that in 1842 the original "bad" was altered to "bade," but all subsequent editions keep to the original. It has been said that this poem was founded on the old Scotch ballad "The Twa Sisters" (see for that ballad Sharpe's 'Ballad Book', No. x., p. 30), but there is no resemblance at all between the ballad and this poem beyond the fact that in each there are two sisters who are both loved by a certain squire, the elder in jealousy pushing the younger into a river and drowning her.

We were two daughters of one race:

She was the fairest in the face:

The wind is blowing in turret and tree.

They were together and she fell;

Therefore revenge became me well.

O the Earl was fair to see!

She died: she went to burning flame:

She mix'd her ancient blood with shame.

The wind is howling in turret and tree.

Whole weeks and months, and early and late,

To win his love I lay in wait:

O the Earl was fair to see!

I made a feast; I bad him come;

I won his love, I brought him home.

The wind is roaring in turret and tree.

And after supper, on a bed,

Upon my lap he laid his head:

O the Earl was fair to see!

I kiss'd his eyelids into rest:

His ruddy cheek upon my breast.

The wind is raging in turret and tree.

I hated him with the hate of hell,

But I loved his beauty passing well.

O the Earl was fair to see!

I rose up in the silent night:

I made my dagger sharp and bright.

The wind is raving in turret and tree.

As half-asleep his breath he drew,

Three times I stabb'd him thro' and thro'.

O the Earl was fair to see!

I curl'd and comb'd his comely head,

He look'd so grand when he was dead.

The wind is blowing in turret and tree.

I wrapt his body in the sheet,

And laid him at his mother's feet.

O the Earl was fair to see!