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The Grandmother
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).

Enoch Arden &c.
The Grandmother
by Lord Alfred Tennyson


And Willy, my eldest-born, is gone, you say, little
Ruddy and white, and strong on his legs, he looks like
     a man.
And Willy's wife has written: she never was over-
Never the wife for Willy: he would n't take my


For, Annie, you see, her father was not the man to
Had n't a head to manage, and drank himself into his
Pretty enough, very pretty! but I was against it for
Eh!--but he would n't hear me--and Willy, you say,
     is gone.


Willy, my beauty, my eldest-born, the flower of the
Never a man could fling him: for Willy stood like a
`Here's a leg for a babe of a week!' says doctor; and
       he would be bound,
There was not his like that year in twenty parishes


Strong of his hands, and strong on his legs, but still of
       his tongue!
I ought to have gone before him: I wonder he went
       so young.
I cannot cry for him, Annie: I have not long to
Perhaps I shall see him the sooner, for he lived far


Why do you look at me, Annie? you think I am hard
       and cold;
But all my children have gone before me, I am so
I cannot weep for Willy, nor can I weep for the
Only at your age, Annie, I could have wept with the


For I remember a quarrel I had with your father, my
All for a slanderous story, that cost me many a
I mean your grandfather, Annie: it cost me a world
       of woe,
Seventy years ago, my darling, seventy years


For Jenny, my cousin, had come to the place, and I
       knew right well
That Jenny had tript in her time: I knew, but I
       would not tell.
And she to be coming and slandering me, the base
       little liar!
But the tongue is a fire as you know, my dear, the
       tongue is a fire.


And the parson made it his text that week, and he
       said likewise,
That a lie which is half a truth is ever the blackest of
That a lie which is all a lie may be met and fought
       with outright,
But a lie which is part a truth is a harder matter to


And Willy had not been down to the farm for a week
       and a day;
And all things look'd half-dead, tho' it was the middle
       of May.
Jenny, to slander me, who knew what Jenny had
But soiling another, Annie, will never make oneself


And I cried myself well-nigh blind, and all of an
       evening late
I climb'd to the top of the garth, and stood by the
       road at the gate.
The moon like a rick on fire was rising over the
And whit, whit, whit, in the bush beside me chirrupt
       the nightingale.


All of a sudden he stopt: there past by the gate of
       the farm,
Willy,--he did n't see me,--and Jenny hung on his
Out into the road I started, and spoke I scarce knew
Ah, there's no fool like the old one--it makes me
       angry now.


Willy stood up like a man, and look'd the thing that
       he meant;
Jenny, the viper, made me a mocking courtesy and
And I said, `Let us part: in a hundred years it'll all
       be the same,
You cannot love me at all, if you love not my good


And he turn'd, and I saw his eyes all wet, in the sweet
Sweetheart, I love you so well that your good name
       is mine.
And what do I care for Jane, let her speak of you well
       of ill;
But marry me out of hand: we two shall be happy


`Marry you, Willy!' said I, `but I needs must speak
       my mind,
And I fear you'll listen to tales, be jealous and hard
       and unkind.'
But he turn'd and claspt me in his arms, and answer'd,
       `No, love, no;'
Seventy years ago, my darling, seventy years


So Willy and I were wedded: I wore a lilac
And the ringers rang with a will, and he gave the
       ringers a crown.
But the first that ever I bare was dead before he was
Shadow and shine is life, little Annie, flower and


That was the first time, too, that ever I thought of
There lay the sweet little body that never had drawn
       a breath.
I had not wept, little Anne, not since I had been a
But I wept like a child that day, for the babe had
       fought for his life.


His dear little face was troubled, as if with anger or
I look'd at the still little body--his trouble had all
       been in vain.
For Willy I cannot weep, I shall see him another
But I wept like a child for the child that was dead
       before he was born.


But he cheer'd me, my good man, for he seldom said me
Kind, like a man, was he; like a man, too, would have
       his way:
Never jealous--not he: we had many a happy
And he died, and I could not weep--my own time
       seem'd so near.


But I wish'd it had been God's will that I, too, then
       could have died:
I began to be tired a little, and fain had slept at his
And that was ten years back, or more, if I don't
But as to the children, Annie, they're all about me


Pattering over the boards, my Annie who left me at
Patter she goes, my own little Annie, an Annie like
Pattering over the boards, she comes and goes at her
While Harry is in the five-acre and Charlie ploughing
       the hill.


And Harry and Charlie, I hear them too--they sing
       to their team:
Often they come to the door in a pleasant kind of a
They come and sit by my chair, they hover about my
I am not always certain if they be alive or


And yet I know for a truth, there's none of them
       left alive;
For Harry went at sixty, your father at sixty-
And Willy, my eldest born, at nigh threescore and
I knew them all as babies, and now they're elderly


For mine is a time of peace, it is not often I
I am oftener sitting at home in my father's farm
       at eve:
And the neighbors come and laugh and gossip, and
       so do I;
I find myself often laughing at things that have long
       gone by.


To be sure the preacher says, our sins should make
       us sad:
But mine is a time of peace, and there is Grace to
       be had;
And God, not man, is the Judge of us all when life
       shall cease;
And in this Book, little Annie, the message is one of


And age is a time of peace, so it be free from
And happy has been my life; but I would not live
       it again.
I seem to be tired a little, that's all, and long for
Only at your age, Annie, I could have wept with the


So Willy has gone, my beauty, my eldest-born, my
But how can I weep for Willy, he has but gone for
       an hour,--
Gone for a minute, my son, from this room into the
I, too, shall go in a minute. What time have I to
       be vext?


And Willy's wife has written, she never was over-
Get me my glasses, Annie: thank God that I keep
       my eyes.
There is but a trifle left you, when I shall have past
But stay with the old woman now: you cannot have
       long to stay.

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