From In Memoriam
I sometimes hold it half a sin
to put in words the grief I feel;
for words, like Nature, half reveal
and half conceal the Soul within...
In words, like weeds, I’ll wrap me o’er,
like coarsest clothes against the cold:
but that large grief which these enfold
is given in outline and no more.
One writes, that "Other friends remain,"
that "Loss is common to the race"--
and common is the commonplace,
and vacant chaff well meant for grain.
That loss is common would not make
my own less bitter, rather more:
too common! Never morning wore
to evening, but some heart did break...
Tears of the widower, when he sees
a late-lost form that sleep reveals,
and moves his doubtful arms, and feels
her place is empty, fall like these;
which weep a loss for ever new,
a void where heart on heart reposed;
and, where warm hands have pressed and closed,
silence, till I be silent too.
...an awful thought, a life removed,
the human-hearted man I loved,
a Spirit, not a breathing voice.
Come Time, and teach me, many years,
I do not suffer in a dream;
for now so strange do these things seem...
The lesser griefs that may be said,
that breathe a thousand tender vows,
are but as servants in a house
where lies the master newly dead...
"It will be hard," they say, "to find
Another service such as this."
My lighter moods are like to these,
that out of words a comfort win;
but there are other griefs within,
and tears that at their fountain freeze;
for by the hearth the children sit
cold in that atmosphere of Death,
and scarce endure to draw the breath,
...to see the vacant chair, and think,
"How good! how kind! and he is gone."
...And is it that the haze of grief
makes former gladness loom so great?
The lowness of the present state,
that sets the past in this relief?
Or that the past will always win
a glory from its being far...?
...I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
't is better to have loved and lost
than never to have loved at all.
With trembling fingers did we weave
the holly round the Christmas hearth;
a rainy cloud possess’d the earth,
and sadly fell our Christmas-eve.
At our old pastimes in the hall
we gambol’d, making vain pretence
of gladness, with an awful sense
of one mute Shadow watching all...
Then echo-like our voices rang;
we sung, tho’ every eye was dim,
a merry song we sang with him
last year: impetuously we sang:
we ceased: a gentler feeling crept
upon us: surely rest is meet:
"They rest," we said, "their sleep is sweet,"
and silence follow’d, and we wept...
Be near me when my light is low,
when the blood creeps, and the nerves prick
and tingle; and the heart is sick,
and all the wheels of Being slow...
Be near me when my faith is dry...
be near me when I fade away,
to point the term of human strife,
and on the low dark verge of life
the twilight of eternal day.
Oh yet we trust that somehow good
will be the final goal of ill...
That nothing walks with aimless feet;
that not one life shall be destroy’d,
or cast as rubbish to the void,
when God hath made the pile complete...
So runs my dream: but what am I?
an infant crying in the night:
an infant crying for the light:
and with no language but a cry.
I cannot see the features right,
when on the gloom I strive to paint
the face I know; the hues are faint
and mix with hollow masks of night...
I leave thy praises unexpress’d
in verse that brings myself relief,
and by the measure of my grief
I leave thy greatness to be guess’d...
Thy leaf has perish’d in the green,
and, while we breathe beneath the sun,
the world which credits what is done
is cold to all that might have been....
--Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892). Arthur Hallam was Tennyson's close friend, and the fiancé of his sister Emily. Hallam died young in Vienna in 1833. The 132 poems of In Memoriam were written over the next seventeen years. More of the poem can be found here. The full text can be found here.