Tennyson's Poems

The Sleeping Palace

(No alteration since 1851.)


The varying year with blade and sheaf

Clothes and reclothes the happy plains;

Here rests the sap within the leaf,

Here stays the blood along the veins.

Faint shadows, vapours lightly curl'd,

Faint murmurs from the meadows come,

Like hints and echoes of the world

To spirits folded in the womb.


Soft lustre bathes the range of urns

On every slanting terrace-lawn.

The fountain to his place returns

Deep in the garden lake withdrawn.

Here droops the banner on the tower,

On the hall-hearths the festal fires,

The peacock in his laurel bower,

The parrot in his gilded wires.


Roof-haunting martins warm their eggs:

In these, in those the life is stay'd.

The mantles from the golden pegs

Droop sleepily: no sound is made,

Not even of a gnat that sings.

More like a picture seemeth all

Than those old portraits of old kings,

That watch the sleepers from the wall.


Here sits the Butler with a flask

Between his knees, half-drain'd; and there

The wrinkled steward at his task,

The maid-of-honour blooming fair:

The page has caught her hand in his:

Her lips are sever'd as to speak:

His own are pouted to a kiss:

The blush is fix'd upon her cheek.


Till all the hundred summers pass,

The beams, that thro' the Oriel shine,

Make prisms in every carven glass,

And beaker brimm'd with noble wine.

Each baron at the banquet sleeps,

Grave faces gather'd in a ring.

His state the king reposing keeps.

He must have been a jovial king. [1]


All round a hedge upshoots, and shows

At distance like a little wood;

Thorns, ivies, woodbine, misletoes,

And grapes with bunches red as blood;

All creeping plants, a wall of green

Close-matted, bur and brake and briar,

And glimpsing over these, just seen,

High up, the topmost palace-spire.


When will the hundred summers die,

And thought and time be born again,

And newer knowledge, drawing nigh,

Bring truth that sways the soul of men?

Here all things in there place remain,

As all were order'd, ages since.

Come, Care and Pleasure, Hope and Pain,

And bring the fated fairy Prince.

[Footnote 1: All editions up to and including 1851:--He must have been] a jolly king.