Verse > Anthologies > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of English Verse
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Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. 1919. The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900.
  
Alfred Tennyson, Lord Tennyson. 1809–1892
  
702. Song of the Lotos-Eaters
  
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,         5
Than tired eyelids upon tired 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,  10
And from the craggy ledge the poppy hangs in sleep. 
 
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,  15
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,  20
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? 
 
Lo! in the middle of the wood,  25
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  30
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,  35
The flower ripens in its place, 
Ripens and fades, and falls, and hath no toil, 
Fast-rooted in the fruitful soil. 
 
Hateful is the dark-blue sky, 
Vaulted o'er the dark-blue sea.  40
Death is the end of life; ah, why 
Should life all labour 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?  45
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?  50
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. 
 
How sweet it were, hearing the downward stream, 
With half-shut eyes ever to seem  55
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,  60
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,  65
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! 
 
Dear is the memory of our wedded lives, 
And dear the last embraces of our wives  70
And their warm tears: but all hath suffer'd change; 
For surely now our household hearts 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  75
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.  80
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 labour unto agèd breath,  85
Sore task to hearts worn out with many wars 
And eyes grown dim with gazing on the pilot-stars. 
 
But, propt on beds of amaranth and moly, 
How sweet (while warm airs lull us, blowing lowly) 
With half-dropt eyelids still,  90
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-twinèd vine—  95
To watch the emerald-colour'd water falling 
Thro' many a wov'n acanthus-wreath divine! 
Only to hear and see the far-off sparkling brine, 
Only to hear were sweet, stretch'd out beneath the pine. 
 
The Lotos blooms below the barren peak: 100
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, 105
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 relined 
On the hills like Gods together, careless of mankind. 110
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 the smile in secret, looking over wasted lands, 
Blight and famine, plague and earthquake, roaring deeps and fiery sands, 115
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, 120
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. 125
Surely, surely, slumber is more sweet than toil, the shore 
Than labour in the deep mid-ocean, wind and wave and oar; 
O rest ye, brother mariners, we will not wander more. 
 
 
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