Alfred Lord Tennyson – he features heavily in this poetry book; he’s the poet whose work I learned the most of when I was in school, one of the first being ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ then ‘The Beggar Maid’. Here are a few from the book, my personal favourites being ‘Fatima’, and ‘The Lady of Shalott’, which will feature in a later post.
‘Love and Sorrow’
O Maiden, fresher than the first green leaf
With which the fearful springtide flecks the lea,
Weep not, Almeida, that I said to thee
That thou hast half my heart, for bitter grief
Doth hold the other half in sovranty.
Thou art my heart’s sun in love’s crystalline.
Yet on both sides at once thou canst not shine.
Thine is the bright side of my heart, and thine
My heart’s day, but the shadow of my heart,
Issue of its own substance, my heart’s night
Thou canst not lighten even with thy light,
All powerful in beauty as thou art.
Almeida, if my heart were substanceless,
Then might thy rays pass through to the other side,
So swiftly, that they nowhere would abide,
But lose themselves in utter emptiness.
Half-light, half-shadow, let my spirit sleep;
They never learned to love who never knew to weep.
‘The Beggar Maid’
Her arms across her breast she laid;
She was more fair than words can say:
Bare-footed came the beggar maid
Before the king Cophetua.
In robe and crown the king stept down,
To meet and greet her on her way;
‘It is no wonder,’ said the lords,
‘She is more beautiful than day.’
As shines the moon in clouded skies,
She in her poor attire was seen:
One praised her ankles, one her eyes,
One her dark hair and lovesome mien.
So sweet a face, such angel grace,
In all that land had never been:
Cophetua sware a royal oath:
‘This beggar maid shall be my queen!’
Art - 'A Necklace of Wild Flowers' ~ Emma Sandys
If I'd had a copy of this painting when I was putting the book together, I'd have included it with the poem ...
'King Copetua and the Beggar Maid' - Edmund Blair Leighton
O Love, Love, Love! O withering might!
O sun, that from 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.
Last night, when some one spoke his name,
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.
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.
Art - 'Gwain Departs from Landine' ~ FC Robinson