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The Talking Oak

    ONCE more the gate behind me falls;
    Once more before my face
    I see the moulder'd Abbey-walls,
    That stand within the chace.

    Beyond the lodge the city lies,
    Beneath its drift of smoke;
    And ah! with what delighted eyes
    I turn to yonder oak.

    For when my passion first began,
    Ere that, which in me burn'd,
    The love, that makes me thrice a man,
    Could hope itself return'd;

    To yonder oak within the field
    I spoke without restraint,
    And with a larger faith appeal'd
    Than Papist unto Saint.

    For oft I talk'd with him apart
    And told him of my choice,
    Until he plagiarized a heart,
    And answer'd with a voice.

    Tho' what he whisper'd under Heaven
    None else could understand;
    I found him garrulously given,
    A babbler in the land.

    But since I heard him make reply
    Is many a weary hour;
    'Twere well to question him, and try
    If yet he keeps the power.

    Hail, hidden to the knees in fern,
    Broad Oak of Sumner-chace,
    Whose topmost branches can discern
    The roofs of Sumner-place!

    Say thou, whereon I carved her name,
    If ever maid or spouse,
    As fair as my Olivia, came
    To rest beneath thy boughs.---

    "O Walter, I have shelter'd here
    Whatever maiden grace
    The good old Summers, year by year
    Made ripe in Sumner-chace:

    "Old Summers, when the monk was fat,
    And, issuing shorn and sleek,
    Would twist his girdle tight, and pat
    The girls upon the cheek,

    "Ere yet, in scorn of Peter's-pence,
    And number'd bead, and shrift,
    Bluff Harry broke into the spence
    And turn'd the cowls adrift:

    "And I have seen some score of those
    Fresh faces that would thrive
    When his man-minded offset rose
    To chase the deer at five;

    "And all that from the town would stroll,
    Till that wild wind made work
    In which the gloomy brewer's soul
    Went by me, like a stork:

    "The slight she-slips of royal blood,
    And others, passing praise,
    Straight-laced, but all-too-full in bud
    For puritanic stays:

    "And I have shadow'd many a group
    Of beauties, that were born
    In teacup-times of hood and hoop,
    Or while the patch was worn;

    "And, leg and arm with love-knots gay
    About me leap'd and laugh'd
    The modish Cupid of the day,
    And shrill'd his tinsel shaft.

    "I swear (and else may insects prick
    Each leaf into a gall)
    This girl, for whom your heart is sick,
    Is three times worth them all.

    "For those and theirs, by Nature's law,
    Have faded long ago;
    But in these latter springs I saw
    Your own Olivia blow,

    "From when she gamboll'd on the greens
    A baby-germ, to when
    The maiden blossoms of her teens
    Could number five from ten.

    "I swear, by leaf, and wind, and rain,
    (And hear me with thine ears,)
    That, tho' I circle in the grain
    Five hundred rings of years---

    "Yet, since I first could cast a shade,
    Did never creature pass
    So slightly, musically made,
    So light upon the grass:

    "For as to fairies, that will flit
    To make the greensward fresh,
    I hold them exquisitely knit,
    But far too spare of flesh."

    Oh, hide thy knotted knees in fern,
    And overlook the chace;
    And from thy topmost branch discern
    The roofs of Sumner-place.

    But thou, whereon I carved her name,
    That oft hast heard my vows,
    Declare when last Olivia came
    To sport beneath thy boughs.

    "O yesterday, you know, the fair
    Was holden at the town;
    Her father left his good arm-chair,
    And rode his hunter down.

    "And with him Albert came on his.
    I look'd at him with joy:
    As cowslip unto oxlip is,
    So seems she to the boy.

    "An hour had past---and, sitting straight
    Within the low-wheel'd chaise,
    Her mother trundled to the gate
    Behind the dappled grays.

    "But as for her, she stay'd at home,
    And on the roof she went,
    And down the way you use to come,
    She look'd with discontent.

    "She left the novel half-uncut
    Upon the rosewood shelf;
    She left the new piano shut:
    She could not please herseif

    "Then ran she, gamesome as the colt,
    And livelier than a lark
    She sent her voice thro' all the holt
    Before her, and the park.

    "A light wind chased her on the wing,
    And in the chase grew wild,
    As close as might be would he cling
    About the darling child:

    "But light as any wind that blows
    So fleetly did she stir,
    The flower, she touch'd on, dipt and rose,
    And turn'd to look at her.

    "And here she came, and round me play'd,
    And sang to me the whole
    Of those three stanzas that you made
    About my ‘giant bole;'

    "And in a fit of frolic mirth
    She strove to span my waist:
    Alas, I was so broad of girth,
    I could not be embraced.

    "I wish'd myself the fair young beech
    That here beside me stands,
    That round me, clasping each in each,
    She might have lock'd her hands.

    "Yet seem'd the pressure thrice as sweet
    As woodbine's fragile hold,
    Or when I feel about my feet
    The berried briony fold."

    O muffle round thy knees with fern,
    And shadow Sumner-chace!
    Long may thy topmost branch discern
    The roofs of Sumner-place!

    But tell me, did she read the name
    I carved with many vows
    When last with throbbing heart I came
    To rest beneath thy boughs?

    "O yes, she wander'd round and round
    These knotted knees of mine,
    And found, and kiss'd the name she found,
    And sweetly murmur'd thine.

    "A teardrop trembled from its source,
    And down my surface crept.
    My sense of touch is something coarse,
    But I believe she wept.

    "Then flush'd her cheek with rosy light,
    She glanced across the plain;
    But not a creature was in sight:
    She kiss'd me once again.

    "Her kisses were so close and kind,
    That, trust me on my word,
    Hard wood I am, and wrinkled rind,
    But yet my sap was stirr'd:

    "And even into my inmost ring
    A pleasure I discern'd,
    Like those blind motions of the Spring,
    That show the year is turn'd.

    "Thrice-happy he that may caress
    The ringlet's waving balm---
    The cushions of whose touch may press
    The maiden's tender palm.

    "I, rooted here among the groves
    But languidly adjust
    My vapid vegetable loves
    With anthers and with dust:

    "For ah! my friend, the days were brief
    Whereof the poets talk,
    When that, which breathes within the leaf,
    Could slip its bark and walk.

    "But could I, as in times foregone,
    From spray, and branch, and stem,
    Have suck'd and gather'd into one
    The life that spreads in them,

    "She had not found me so remiss;
    But lightly issuing thro',
    I would have paid her kiss for kiss,
    With usury thereto."

    O flourish high, with leafy towers,
    And overlook the lea,
    Pursue thy loves among the bowers
    But leave thou mine to me.

    O flourish, hidden deep in fern,
    Old oak, I love thee well;
    A thousand thanks for what I learn
    And what remains to tell.

    " ‘ Tis little more: the day was warm;
    At last, tired out with play,
    She sank her head upon her arm
    And at my feet she lay.

    "Her eyelids dropp'd their silken eaves
    I breathed upon her eyes
    Thro' all the summer of my leaves
    A welcome mix'd with sighs.

    "I took the swarming sound of life---
    The music from the town---
    The murmurs of the drum and fife
    And lull'd them in my own.

    "Sometimes I let a sunbeam slip,
    To light her shaded eye;
    A second flutter'd round her lip
    Like a golden butterfly;

    "A third would glimmer on her neck
    To make the necklace shine;
    Another slid, a sunny fleck,
    From head to ankle fine,

    "Then close and dark my arms I spread,
    And shadow'd all her rest---
    Dropt dews upon her golden head,
    An acorn in her breast.

    "But in a pet she started up,
    And pluck'd it out, and drew
    My little oakling from the cup,
    And flung him in the dew.

    "And yet it was a graceful gift---
    I felt a pang within
    As when I see the woodman lift
    His axe to slay my kin.

    "I shook him down because he was
    The finest on the tree.
    He lies beside thee on the grass.
    O kiss him once for me.

    "O kiss him twice and thrice for me,
    That have no lips to kiss,
    For never yet was oak on lea
    Shall grow so fair as this.'

    Step deeper yet in herb and fern,
    Look further thro' the chace,
    Spread upward till thy boughs discern
    The front of Sumner-place.

    This fruit of thine by Love is blest,
    That but a moment lay
    Where fairer fruit of Love may rest
    Some happy future day.

    I kiss it twice, I kiss it thrice,
    The warmth it thence shall win
    To riper life may magnetise
    The baby-oak within.

    But thou, while kingdoms overset,
    Or lapse from hand to hand,
    Thy leaf shall never fail, nor yet
    Thine acorn in the land.

    May never saw dismember thee,
    Nor wielded axe disjoint,
    That art the fairest-spoken tree
    From here to Lizard-point.

    O rock upon thy towery-top
    All throats that gurgle sweet!
    All starry culmination drop
    Balm-dews to bathe thy feet!

    All grass of silky feather grow---
    And while he sinks or swells
    The full south-breeze around thee blow
    The sound of minster bells.

    The fat earth feed thy branchy root,
    That under deeply strikes!
    The northern morning o'er thee shoot,
    High up, in silver spikes!

    Nor ever lightning char thy grain,
    But, rolling as in sleep,
    Low thunders bring the mellow rain,
    That makes thee broad and deep!

    And hear me swear a solemn oath,
    That only by thy side
    Will I to Olive plight my troth,
    And gain her for my bride.

    And when my marriage morn may fall,
    She, Dryad-like, shall wear
    Alternate leaf and acorn-ball
    In wreath about her hair.

    And I will work in prose and rhyme,
    And praise thee more in both
    Than bard has honour'd beech or lime,
    Or that Thessalian growth,

    In which the swarthy ringdove sat,
    And mystic sentence spoke;
    And more than England honours that,
    Thy famous brother-oak,

    Wherein the younger Charles abode
    Till all the paths were dim,
    And far below the Roundhead rode,
    And humm'd a surly hymn.

    Alfred, Lord Tennyson


    O LOVE, Love, Love! O withering might!
    O sun, that from thy noonday height
    Shudderest when I strain my sight,
    Throbbing thro' all thy heat and light,
    Lo, falling from my constant mind,
    Lo, parch'd and wither'd, deaf and blind,
    I whirl like leaves in roaring wind.

    Last night I wasted hateful hours
    Below the city's eastern towers:
    I thirsted for the brooks, the showers:
    I roll'd among the tender flowers:
    I crush'd them on my breast, my mouth;
    I look'd athwart the burning drouth
    Of that long desert to the south.

    Last night, when some one spoke his name,
    From my swift blood that went and came
    A thousand little shafts of flame
    Were shiver'd in my narrow frame.
    O Love, O fire! once he drew
    With one long kiss my whole soul thro'
    My lips, as sunlight drinketh dew.

    Before he mounts the hill, I know
    He cometh quickly: from below
    Sweet gales, as from deep gardens, blow
    Before him, striking on my brow.
    In my dry brain my spirit soon,
    Down-deepening from swoon to swoon,
    Faints like a daled morning moon.

    The wind sounds like a silver wire,
    And from beyond the noon a fire
    Is pour'd upon the hills, and nigher
    The skies stoop down in their desire;
    And, isled in sudden seas of light,
    My heart, pierced thro' with fierce delight,
    Bursts into blossom in his sight.

    My whole soul waiting silently,
    All naked in a sultry sky,
    Droops blinded with his shining eye:
    I will possess him or will die.
    I will grow round him in his place,
    Grow, live, die looking on his face,
    Die, dying clasp'd in his embrace.

    Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Move Eastward, Happy Earth

    MOVE eastward, happy earth, and leave
    Yon orange sunset waning slow:
    From fringes of the faded eve,
    O, happy planet, eastward go:
    Till over thy dark shoulder glow
    Thy silver sister world, and rise
    To glass herself in dewey eyes
    That watch me from the glen below.

    Ah, bear me with thee, lightly borne,
    Dip forward under starry light,
    And move me to my marriage-morn,
    And round again to happy night.

    Alfred, Lord Tennyson

The Death of the Old Year

    FULL knee-deep lies the winter snow,
    And the winter winds are wearily sighing:
    Toll ye the church bell sad and slow,
    And tread softly and speak low,
    For the old year lies a-dying.
    Old year you must not die;
    You came to us so readily,
    You lived with us so steadily,
    Old year you shall not die.

    He lieth still: he doth not move:
    He will not see the dawn of day.
    He hath no other life above.
    He gave me a friend and a true truelove
    And the New-year will take 'em away.
    Old year you must not go;
    So long you have been with us,
    Such joy as you have seen with us,
    Old year, you shall not go.

    He froth'd his bumpers to the brim;
    A jollier year we shall not see.
    But tho' his eyes are waxing dim,
    And tho' his foes speak ill of him,
    He was a friend to me.
    Old year, you shall not die;
    We did so laugh and cry with you,
    I've half a mind to die with you,
    Old year, if you must die.

    He was full of joke and jest,
    But all his merry quips are o'er.
    To see him die across the waste
    His son and heir doth ride post-haste,
    But he'll be dead before.
    Every one for his own.
    The night is starry and cold, my friend,
    And the New-year blithe and bold, my friend,
    Comes up to take his own.

    How hard he breathes! over the snow
    I heard just now the crowing cock.
    The shadows flicker to and fro:
    The cricket chirps: the light burns low:
    'Tis nearly twelve o'clock.
    Shake hands, before you die.
    Old year, we'll dearly rue for you:
    What is it we can do for you?
    Speak out before you die.

    His face is growing sharp and thin.
    Alack! our friend is gone,
    Close up his eyes: tie up his chin:
    Step from the corpse, and let him in
    That standeth there alone,
    And waiteth at the door.
    There's a new foot on the floor, my friend,
    And a new face at the door, my friend,
    A new face at the door.

    Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Ring Out, Wild Bells

    RING out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
    The flying cloud, the frosty light;
    The year is dying in the night;
    Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

    Ring out the old, ring in the new,
    Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
    The year is going, let him go;
    Ring out the false, ring in the true.

    Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
    For those that here we see no more,
    Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
    Ring in redress to all mankind.

    Ring out a slowly dying cause,
    And ancient forms of party strife;
    Ring in the nobler modes of life,
    With sweeter manners, purer laws.

    Ring out the want, the care the sin,
    The faithless coldness of the times;
    Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
    But ring the fuller minstrel in.

    Ring out false pride in place and blood,
    The civic slander and the spite;
    Ring in the love of truth and right,
    Ring in the common love of good.

    Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
    Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
    Ring out the thousand wars of old,
    Ring in the thousand years of peace.

    Ring in the valiant man and free,
    The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
    Ring out the darkenss of the land,
    Ring in the Christ that is to be.

    Alfred, Lord Tennyson

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