Ulysses

Alfred Lord Tennyson - 1809-1892

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Matched with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel; I will drink
Life to the lees. All times I have enjoyed
Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Through scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea. I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known—cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honored of them all,—
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!
As though to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains; but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.
   This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the scepter and the isle,
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfill
This labor, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and through soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centered in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.
   There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail;
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toiled, and wrought, and thought with me,
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honor and his toil.
Death closes all; but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks;
The long day wanes; the slow moon climbs; the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

More by Alfred Lord Tennyson

The Lady of Shalott

Part I

On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And through the field the road runs by
	To many-towered Camelot;              
And up and down the people go,               
Gazing where the lilies blow               
Round an island there below,               
	The island of Shalott.               

Willows whiten, aspens quiver,               
Little breezes dusk and shiver               
Through the wave that runs for ever              
By the island in the river              
	Flowing down to Camelot.              
Four grey walls, and four grey towers,               
Overlook a space of flowers,              
And the silent isle imbowers               
	The Lady of Shalott.              

By the margin, willow-veiled,              
Slide the heavy barges trailed               
By slow horses; and unhailed              
The shallop flitteth silken-sailed               
	Skimming down to Camelot:               
But who hath seen her wave her hand?             
Or at the casement seen her stand?
Or is she known in all the land,               
	The Lady of Shalott?               

Only reapers, reaping early              
In among the bearded barley,              
Hear a song that echoes cheerly               
From the river winding clearly,               
	Down to towered Camelot:               
And by the moon the reaper weary,              
Piling sheaves in uplands airy,              
Listening, whispers "'Tis the fairy               
	Lady of Shalott."         

Part II               

There she weaves by night and day              
A magic web with colours gay.            
She has heard a whisper say,               
A curse is on her if she stay               
	To look down to Camelot.               
She knows not what the curse may be,               
And so she weaveth steadily,              
And little other care hath she,              
	The Lady of Shalott.              

And moving through a mirror clear               
That hangs before her all the year,               
Shadows of the world appear.             
There she sees the highway near               
	Winding down to Camelot:              
There the river eddy whirls,
And there the surly village-churls,               
And the red cloaks of market girls,              
	Pass onward from Shalott.                             

Sometimes a troop of damsels glad,              
An abbot on an ambling pad,               
Sometimes a curly shepherd-lad,               
Or long-haired page in crimson clad,               
	Goes by to towered Camelot;               
And sometimes through the mirror blue               
The knights come riding two and two:             
She hath no loyal knight and true,               
	The Lady of Shalott.              

But in her web she still delights               
To weave the mirror's magic sights,              
For often through the silent nights               
A funeral, with plumes and lights             
	And music, went to Camelot:              
Or when the moon was overhead,               
Came two young lovers lately wed;              
"I am half sick of shadows," said              
	The Lady of Shalott.              

Part III
 
A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,               
He rode between the barley-sheaves,
The sun came dazzling through the leaves,              
And flamed upon the brazen greaves               
	Of bold Sir Lancelot.               
A red-cross knight for ever kneeled               
To a lady in his shield,             
That sparkled on the yellow field,              
	Beside remote Shalott.              
               
The gemmy bridle glittered free,             
Like to some branch of stars we see
Hung in the golden Galaxy.              
The bridle bells rang merrily               
	As he rode down to Camelot:               
And from his blazoned baldric slung               
A mighty silver bugle hung,               
And as he rode his armour rung,               
	Beside remote Shalott.              
               
All in the blue unclouded weather              
Thick-jewelled shone the saddle-leather,
The helmet and the helmet-feather              
Burned like one burning flame together,               
	As he rode down to Camelot.              
As often through the purple night,               
Below the starry clusters bright,               
Some bearded meteor, trailing light,               
	Moves over still Shalott.               
               
His broad clear brow in sunlight glowed;              
On burnished hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flowed              
His coal-black curls as on he rode,              
	As he rode down to Camelot.               
From the bank and from the river               
He flashed into the crystal mirror,              
"Tirra lirra," by the river               
	Sang Sir Lancelot.              
               
She left the web, she left the loom,              
She made three paces through the room,
She saw the water-lily bloom,               
She saw the helmet and the plume,               
	She looked down to Camelot.               
Out flew the web and floated wide;               
The mirror cracked from side to side;               
"The curse is come upon me," cried               
	The Lady of Shalott.              
               
Part IV              

In the stormy east-wind straining,
The pale yellow woods were waning,               
The broad stream in his banks complaining,
Heavily the low sky raining               
	Over towered Camelot;               
Down she came and found a boat               
Beneath a willow left afloat,               
And round about the prow she wrote               
	The Lady of Shalott.              
               
And down the river's dim expanse,              
Like some bold seër in a trance               
Seeing all his own mischance--
With a glassy countenance              
	Did she look to Camelot.              
And at the closing of the day               
She loosed the chain, and down she lay;               
The broad stream bore her far away,               
	The Lady of Shalott.               
               
Lying, robed in snowy white               
That loosely flew to left and right--               
The leaves upon her falling light--
Through the noises of the night               
	She floated down to Camelot:                
And as the boat-head wound along                
The willowy hills and fields among,               
They heard her singing her last song,               
	The Lady of Shalott.               
               
Heard a carol, mournful, holy,              
Chanted loudly, chanted lowly,               
Till her blood was frozen slowly,
And her eyes were darkened wholly,               
	Turned to towered Camelot.               
For ere she reached upon the tide               
The first house by the water-side,               
Singing in her song she died,               
	The Lady of Shalott.              
               
Under tower and balcony,              
By garden-wall and gallery,              
A gleaming shape she floated by,
Dead-pale between the houses high,               
	Silent into Camelot.               
Out upon the wharfs they came,              
Knight and burgher, lord and dame,               
And round the prow they read her name,               
	The Lady of Shalott.               

Who is this? and what is here?               
And in the lighted palace near               
Died the sound of royal cheer;               
And they crossed themselves for fear,
	All the knights at Camelot:               
But Lancelot mused a little space;               
He said, "She has a lovely face;               
God in his mercy lend her grace,               
	The Lady of Shalott."               
              

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.

Tears, Idle Tears

Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
In looking on the happy autumn-fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more.

    Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail,
That brings our friends up from the underworld,
Sad as the last which reddens over one
That sinks with all we love below the verge;
So sad, so fresh, the days that are no more.

    Ah, sad and strange as in dark summer dawns
The earliest pipe of half-awakened birds
To dying ears, when unto dying eyes
The casement slowly grows a glimmering square;
So sad, so strange, the days that are no more.

    Dear as remembered kisses after death,
And sweet as those by hopeless fancy feigned
On lips that are for others; deep as love,
Deep as first love, and wild with all regret;
O Death in Life, the days that are no more!