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Poems for the People   -  Poems by the People

by Lord Alfred Tennyson

English poet and dramatist, generally considered to be the chief representative of the Victorian age in poetry. Tennyson's major works include his Poems. Chiefly Lyrical (1830); his two volume work, again entitled Poems, of 1842 which includes, alongside rewritten earlier works, the dramatic monologue 'Ulysses', 'Morte d'Arthur' and 'Sir Galahad' - his first pieces dealing with Arthurian legend, 'Locksley Hall' and 'Break, Break, Break'; the novella Princess: a Medly (1847) and his In Memorium A.H.H. (1850), a tribute to his deceased friend Arthur Hallam.

Other major works, this time from Tennyson's second period of creative out put after being made poet laureate, include Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington (1852), The Charge of the Light Brigade (1854) and Maud (1855), what Tennyson referred to as his "monodrama".

He also wrote, in later years, a number of works centred on Arthurian legends, including The Idylls of the King (1859), The Holy Grail and Other Poems (1870) and Gareth and Lynette (1872), as well as some poetic dramas: Queen Mary (1875), Harold (1877), Becket (1884) and, his only prose work, The Promise of May (produced at the Globe Theatre in November 1882). Other important works are Despair (1881), Locksley Hall Sixty Years After (1886), Demeter and Other Poems (1889) and his famous Crossing the Bar (1889). At Alfred's request, his poem "Crossing the Bar," an epitaph of sorts, is always printed last in any collection of his works (our thanks to visitor Cynthia R. for reminding Passions of this oversight).

by Lord Alfred Tennyson

My father left a park to me,
  But it is wild and barren,
A garden too with scarce a tree,
  And waster than a warren;
Yet say the neighbors when they call
  It is not bad but good land,
And in it is the germ of all
  That grows within the woodland.

O, had I lived when song was great
  In days of old Amphion,
And ta’en my fiddle to the gate,
  Nor cared for seed or scion!
And had I lived when song was great,
  And legs of trees were limber,
And ta’en my fiddle to the gate,
  And fiddled in the timber!

’Tis said he had a tuneful tongue,
  Such happy intonation,
Wherever he sat down and sung
  He left a small plantation;
Wherever in a lonely grove
  He set up his forlorn pipes,
The gouty oak began to move,
  And flounder into hornpipes.

The mountain stirr’d its bushy crown,
  And, as tradition teaches,
Young ashes pirouetted down
  Coquetting with young beeches;
And briony-vine and ivy-wreath
  Ran forward to his rhyming,
And from the valleys underneath
  Came little copses climbing.

The linden broke her ranks and rent
  The woodbine wreaths that bind her,
And down the middle, buzz! she went
  With all her bees behind her;
The poplars, in long order due,
  With cypress promenaded,
The shock-head willows two and two
  By rivers gallopaded.

Came wet-shod alder from the wave,
  Came yews, a dismal coterie;
Each pluck’d his one foot from the grave,
  Poussetting with a sloe-tree;
Old elms came breaking from the vine,
  The vine stream’d out to follow,
And, sweating rosin, plump’d the pine
  From many a cloudy hollow.

And wasn’t it a sight to see,
  When, ere his song was ended,
Like some great landslip, tree by tree,
  The country-side descended;
And shepherds from the mountain-eaves
  Look’d down, half-pleased, half-frighten’d,
As dash’d about the drunken leaves
  The random sunshine lighten’d?

O, Nature first was fresh to men,
  And wanton without measure;
So youthful and so flexile then,
  You moved her at your pleasure.
Twang out, my fiddle! shake the twigs!
  And make her dance attendance;
Blow, flute, and stir the stiff-set sprigs,
  And scirrhous roots and tendons!

’Tis vain! in such a brassy age
  I could not move a thistle;
The very sparrows in the hedge
  Scarce answer to my whistle;
Or at the most, when three-parts-sick
  With strumming and with scraping,
A jackass heehaws from the rick,
  The passive oxen gaping.

But what is that I hear? a sound
  Like sleepy counsel pleading;
O Lord!–’tis in my neighbor’s ground,
  The modern Muses reading.
They read Botanic Treatises,
  And Works on Gardening thro’ there,
And Methods of Transplanting Trees
  To look as if they grew there.

The wither’d Misses! how they prose
  O’er books of travell’d seamen,
And show you slips of all that grows
  From England to Van Diemen.
They read in arbors clipt and cut,
  And alleys, faded places,
By squares of tropic summer shut
  And warm’d in crystal cases.

But these, tho’ fed with careful dirt,
  Are neither green nor sappy;
Half-conscious of the garden-squirt,
  The spindlings look unhappy.
Better to me the meanest weed
  That blows upon its mountain,
The vilest herb that runs to seed
  Beside its native fountain.

And I must work thro’ months of toil,
  And years of cultivation,
Upon my proper patch of soil
  To grow my own plantation.
I’ll take the showers as they fall,
  I will not vex my bosom;
Enough if at the end of all
  A little garden blossom.

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