The Lotos-Eaters

- 1809-1892

⁠‘Courage!’ he said, and pointed toward the land,
⁠‘This mounting wave will roll us shoreward soon.’
⁠In the afternoon they came unto a land
⁠In which it seemed always afternoon.
⁠All round the coast the languid air did swoon,
⁠Breathing like one that hath a weary dream.
⁠Full-faced above the valley stood the moon;
⁠And, like a downward smoke, the slender stream
⁠Along the cliff to fall and pause and fall did seem.
⁠ A land of streams! some, like a downward smoke,
⁠ Slow-dropping veils of thinnest lawn, did go;
⁠And some thro’ wavering lights and shadows broke,
⁠Rolling a slumbrous sheet of foam below.
⁠They saw the gleaming river seaward flow
⁠From the inner land; far off, three mountain-tops,
⁠Three silent pinnacles of aged snow,
⁠Stood sunset-flush’d; and, dew’d with showery drops,
⁠Up-clomb the shadowy pine above the woven copse.

The charmed sunset linger’d low adown
⁠In the red West; thro’ mountain clefts the dale
⁠Was seen far inland, and the yellow down
⁠Border’d with palm, and many a winding vale
⁠And meadow, set with slender galingale;
⁠A land where all things always seem’d the same!
⁠And round about the keel with faces pale,
⁠Dark faces pale against that rosy flame,
⁠The mild-eyed melancholy Lotos-eaters came.

⁠Branches they bore of that enchanted stem,
⁠Laden with flower and fruit, whereof they gave
⁠To each, but whoso did receive of them
⁠And taste, to him the gushing of the wave
⁠Far far away did seem to mourn and rave
⁠On alien shores; and if his fellow spake,
⁠His voice was thin, as voices from the grave;
⁠And deep-asleep he seem’d, yet all awake,
And music in his ears his beating heart did make.

⁠ They sat them down upon the yellow sand,
⁠Between the sun and moon upon the shore;
⁠And sweet it was to dream of Fatherland,
⁠Of child, and wife, and slave; but evermore
Most weary seem’d the sea, weary the oar,
⁠Weary the wandering fields of barren foam.
⁠Then some one said, “We will return no more;”
⁠And all at once they sang, “Our island home
⁠Is far beyond the wave; we will no longer roam.”

                     CHORIC SONG

                                 I

⁠There is sweet music here that softer falls
⁠Than petals from blown roses on the grass,
⁠Or night-dews on still waters between walls
⁠Of shadowy granite, in a gleaming pass;
⁠Music that gentlier on the spirit lies,
⁠Than tir’d eyelids upon tir’d eyes;
⁠Music that brings sweet sleep down from the blissful skies.
⁠Here are cool mosses deep,
⁠And thro’ the moss the ivies creep,
⁠And in the stream the long-leaved flowers weep,
⁠And from the craggy ledge the poppy hangs in sleep.

                                 II

⁠Why are we weigh’d upon with heaviness,
⁠And utterly consumed with sharp distress,
⁠While all things else have rest from weariness?
⁠All things have rest: why should we toil alone,
⁠We only toil, who are the first of things,
⁠And make perpetual moan,
⁠Still from one sorrow to another thrown;
⁠Nor ever fold our wings,
⁠And cease from wanderings,
⁠Nor steep our brows in slumber’s holy balm;
⁠Nor harken what the inner spirit sings,
⁠“There is no joy but calm!”—
⁠Why should we only toil, the roof and crown of things?

                                 III

⁠Lo! in the middle of the wood,
⁠The folded leaf is woo’d from out the bud
⁠With winds upon the branch, and there
⁠Grows green and broad, and takes no care,
⁠Sun-steep’d at noon, and in the moon
⁠Nightly dew-fed; and turning yellow
⁠Falls, and floats adown the air.
⁠Lo! sweeten’d with the summer light,
⁠The full-juiced apple, waxing over-mellow,
⁠Drops in a silent autumn night.
⁠All its allotted length of days
⁠The flower ripens in its place,
⁠Ripens and fades, and falls, and hath no toil,
⁠Fast-rooted in the fruitful soil.

                                 IV

⁠Hateful is the dark-blue sky,
⁠Vaulted o’er the dark-blue sea.
⁠Death is the end of life; ah, why
⁠Should life all labor be?
⁠Let us alone. Time driveth onward fast,
⁠And in a little while our lips are dumb.
⁠Let us alone. What is it that will last?
⁠All things are taken from us, and become
⁠Portions and parcels of the dreadful past.
⁠Let us alone. What pleasure can we have
⁠To war with evil? Is there any peace
⁠In ever climbing up the climbing wave?
⁠All things have rest, and ripen toward the grave
⁠In silence—ripen, fall, and cease:
⁠Give us long rest or death, dark death, or dreamful ease.

                                 V

⁠How sweet it were, hearing the downward stream,
⁠With half-shut eyes ever to seem
⁠Falling asleep in a half-dream!
⁠To dream and dream, like yonder amber light,
⁠Which will not leave the myrrh-bush on the height;
⁠To hear each other’s whisper’d speech;
⁠Eating the Lotos day by day,
⁠To watch the crisping ripples on the beach,
⁠And tender curving lines of creamy spray;
⁠To lend our hearts and spirits wholly
⁠To the influence of mild-minded melancholy;
⁠To muse and brood and live again in memory,
⁠With those old faces of our infancy
⁠Heap’d over with a mound of grass,
⁠Two handfuls of white dust, shut in an urn of brass!

                                 VI

⁠Dear is the memory of our wedded lives,
⁠And dear the last embraces of our wives
⁠And their warm tears; but all hath suffer’d change;
⁠For surely now our household hearths are cold,
⁠Our sons inherit us, our looks are strange,
⁠And we should come like ghosts to trouble joy.
⁠Or else the island princes over-bold
⁠Have eat our substance, and the minstrel sings
⁠Before them of the ten years’ war in Troy,
⁠And our great deeds, as half-forgotten things.
⁠Is there confusion in the little isle?
⁠Let what is broken so remain.
⁠The Gods are hard to reconcile;
⁠’Tis hard to settle order once again.
⁠There is confusion worse than death,
⁠Trouble on trouble, pain on pain,
⁠Long labor unto aged breath,
⁠Sore task to hearts worn out by many wars
⁠And eyes grown dim with gazing on the pilot-stars.

                                 VII

⁠But, propped on beds of amaranth and moly,
⁠How sweet—while warm airs lull us, blowing lowly—
⁠With half-dropped eyelids still,
⁠Beneath a heaven dark and holy,
⁠To watch the long bright river drawing slowly
⁠His waters from the purple hill—
⁠To hear the dewy echoes calling
⁠From cave to cave thro’ the thick-twined vine—
⁠To watch the emerald-color’d water falling
⁠Thro’ many a woven acanthus-wreath divine!
⁠Only to hear and see the far-off sparkling brine,
⁠Only to hear were sweet, stretch’d out beneath the pine.

                                 VIII

⁠The Lotos blooms below the barren peak,
⁠The Lotos blows by every winding creek;
⁠All day the wind breathes low with mellower tone;
⁠Thro’ every hollow cave and alley lone
⁠Round and round the spicy downs the yellow Lotos-dust is blown.
⁠We have had enough of action, and of motion we,
⁠Roll’d to starboard, roll’d to larboard, when the surge was seething free,
⁠Where the wallowing monster spouted his foam-fountains in the sea.
⁠Let us swear an oath, and keep it with an equal mind,
⁠In the hollow Lotos-land to live and lie reclined
⁠On the hills like Gods together, careless of mankind.
⁠For they lie beside their nectar, and the bolts are hurl’d
⁠Far below them in the valleys, and the clouds are lightly curl’d
⁠Round their golden houses, girdled with the gleaming world;
⁠Where they smile in secret, looking over wasted lands,
⁠Blight and famine, plague and earthquake, roaring deeps and fiery sands,
⁠Clanging fights, and flaming towns, and sinking ships, and praying hands.
⁠But they smile, they find a music centred in a doleful song
⁠Steaming up, a lamentation and an ancient tale of wrong,
⁠Like a tale of little meaning tho’ the words are strong;
⁠Chanted from an ill-used race of men that cleave the soil,
⁠Sow the seed, and reap the harvest with enduring toil,
⁠Storing yearly little dues of wheat, and wine and oil;
⁠Till they perish and they suffer—some, ’tis whisper’d—down in hell
⁠Suffer endless anguish, others in Elysian valleys dwell,
⁠Resting weary limbs at last on beds of asphodel.
⁠Surely, surely, slumber is more sweet than toil, the shore
⁠Than labor in the deep mid-ocean, wind and wave and oar;
⁠O, rest ye, brother mariners, we will not wander more.

More by Alfred Lord Tennyson

The Splendor Falls

The splendor falls on castle walls
    And snowy summits old in story;
The long light shakes across the lakes,
    And the wild cataract leaps in glory.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.

O, hark, O, hear! how thin and clear,
    And thinner, clearer, farther going!
O, sweet and far from cliff and scar
    The horns of Elfland faintly blowing!
Blow, let us hear the purple glens replying,
Blow, bugles; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.

O love, they die in yon rich sky,
    They faint on hill or field or river;
Our echoes roll from soul to soul,
    And grow forever and forever.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
And answer, echoes, answer, dying, dying, dying.

In Memoriam, [To Sleep I give my powers away]

To Sleep I give my powers away;
    My will is bondsman to the dark;
    I sit within a helmless bark,
And with my heart I muse and say:

O heart, how fares it with thee now,
    That thou should fail from thy desire,
    Who scarcely darest to inquire,
"What is it makes me beat so low?"

Something it is which thou hast lost,
    Some pleasure from thine early years.
    Break thou deep vase of chilling tears,
That grief hath shaken into frost!

Such clouds of nameless trouble cross
    All night below the darkened eyes;
    With morning wakes the will, and cries,
"Thou shalt not be the fool of loss."

Tithonus

The woods decay, the woods decay and fall,
The vapours weep their burthen to the ground,
Man comes and tills the field and lies beneath,
And after many a summer dies the swan.
Me only cruel immortality
Consumes; I wither slowly in thine arms,
Here at the quiet limit of the world,
A white-hair'd shadow roaming like a dream
The ever-silent spaces of the East,
Far-folded mists, and gleaming halls of morn.
Alas! for this gray shadow, once a man—
So glorious in his beauty and thy choice,
Who madest him thy chosen, that he seem'd
To his great heart none other than a God!
I ask'd thee, "Give me immortality."
Then didst thou grant mine asking with a smile,
Like wealthy men who care not how they give.
But thy strong Hours indignant work'd their wills,
And beat me down and marr'd and wasted me,
And tho' they could not end me, left me maim'd
To dwell in presence of immortal youth,
Immortal age beside immortal youth,
And all I was in ashes. Can thy love 
Thy beauty, make amends, tho' even now,
Close over us, the silver star, thy guide,
Shines in those tremulous eyes that fill with tears
To hear me? Let me go: take back thy gift:
Why should a man desire in any way
To vary from the kindly race of men,
Or pass beyond the goal of ordinance 
Where all should pause, as is most meet for all?
A soft air fans the cloud apart; there comes
A glimpse of that dark world where I was born.
Once more the old mysterious glimmer steals
From any pure brows, and from thy shoulders pure,
And bosom beating with a heart renew'd.
Thy cheek begins to redden thro' the gloom,
Thy sweet eyes brighten slowly close to mine,
Ere yet they blind the stars, and the wild team
Which love thee, yearning for thy yoke, arise,
And shake the darkness from their loosen'd manes,
And beat the twilight into flakes of fire.
Lo! ever thus thou growest beautiful
In silence, then before thine answer given
Departest, and thy tears are on my cheek.

Why wilt thou ever scare me with thy tears,
And make me tremble lest a saying learnt,
In days far-off, on that dark earth, be true?
"The Gods themselves cannot recall their gifts."

Ay me! ay me! with what another heart
In days far-off, and with what other eyes
I used to watch ‹ if I be he that watch'd ‹
The lucid outline forming round thee; saw
The dim curls kindle into sunny rings;
Changed with thy mystic change, and felt my blood
Glow with the glow that slowly crimson'd all
Thy presence and thy portals, while I lay,
Mouth, forehead, eyelids, growing dewy-warm
With kisses balmier than half-opening buds
Of April, and could hear the lips that kiss'd
Whispering I knew not what of wild and sweet,
Like that strange song I heard Apollo sing,
While Ilion like a mist rose into towers.

Yet hold me not for ever in thine East;
How can my nature longer mix with thine?
Coldly thy rosy shadows bathe me, cold
Are all thy lights, and cold my wrinkled feet
Upon thy glimmering thresholds, when the steam
Floats up from those dim fields about the homes
Of happy men that have the power to die,
And grassy barrows of the happier dead.
Release me, and restore me to the ground;
Thou seest all things, thou wilt see my grave:
Thou wilt renew thy beauty morn by morn;
I earth in earth forget these empty courts,
And thee returning on thy silver wheels.