Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. III. Sorrow and Consolation
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume III. Sorrow and Consolation.  1904.
 
V. Death and Bereavement
The May Queen
Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892)
 
YOU must wake and call me early, call me early, mother dear;
To-morrow ’ll be the happiest time of all the glad new-year,—
Of all the glad new-year, mother, the maddest, merriest day;
For I ’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother, I ’m to be Queen o’ the May.
 
There ’s many a black, black eye, they say, but none so bright as mine;        5
There ’s Margaret and Mary, there ’s Kate and Caroline;
But none so fair as little Alice in all the land, they say:
So I ’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother, I ’m to be Queen o’ the May.
 
I sleep so sound all night, mother, that I shall never wake,
If you do not call me loud when the day begins to break;        10
But I must gather knots of flowers and buds, and garlands gay;
For I ’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother, I ’m to be Queen o’ the May.
 
As I came up the valley, whom think ye should I see
But Robin leaning on the bridge beneath the hazel-tree?
He thought of that sharp look, mother, I gave him yesterday,—        15
But I ’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother, I ’m to be Queen o’ the May.
 
He thought I was a ghost, mother, for I was all in white;
And I ran by him without speaking, like a flash of light.
They call me cruel-hearted, but I care not what they say,
For I ’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother, I ’m to be Queen o’ the May.        20
 
They say he ’s dying all for love,—but that can never be;
They say his heart is breaking, mother,—what is that to me?
There ’s many a bolder lad ’ll woo me any summer day;
And I ’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother, I ’m to be Queen o’ the May.
 
Little Effie shall go with me to-morrow to the green,        25
And you ’ll be there, too, mother, to see me made the Queen;
For the shepherd lads on every side ’ll come from far away;
And I ’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother, I ’m to be Queen o’ the May.
 
The honeysuckle round the porch has woven its wavy bowers,
And by the meadow-trenches blow the faint sweet cuckoo-flowers;        30
And the wild marsh-marigold shines like fire in swamps and hollows gray;
And I ’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother, I ’m to be Queen o’ the May.
 
The night-winds come and go, mother, upon the meadow-grass,
And the happy stars above them seem to brighten as they pass;
There will not be a drop of rain the whole of the livelong day;        35
And I ’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother, I ’m to be Queen o’ the May.
 
All the valley, mother, ’ll be fresh and green and still,
And the cowslip and the crowfoot are over all the hill,
And the rivulet in the flowery dale ’ll merrily glance and play,
For I ’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother, I ’m to be Queen o’ the May.        40
 
So you must wake and call me early, call me early, mother dear;
To-morrow ’ll be the happiest time of all the glad new-year;
To-morrow ’ll be of all the year the maddest, merriest day,
For I ’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother, I ’m to be Queen o’ the May.
 
NEW YEAR’S EVE
If you ’re waking, call me early, call me early, mother dear,
        45
For I would see the sun rise upon the glad new-year.
It is the last new-year that I shall ever see,—
Then you may lay me low i’ the mold, and think no more of me.
 
To-night I saw the sun set,—he set and left behind
The good old year, the dear old time, and all my peace of mind;        50
And the new-year ’s coming up, mother; but I shall never see
The blossom on the blackthorn, the leaf upon the tree.
 
Last May we made a crown of flowers; we had a merry day,—
Beneath the hawthorn on the green they made me Queen of May;
And we danced about the May-pole and in the hazel copse,        55
Till Charles’s Wain came out above the tall white chimney-tops.
 
There ’s not a flower on all the hills,—the frost is on the pane;
I only wish to live till the snowdrops come again.
I wish the snow would melt and the sun come out on high,—
I long to see a flower so before the day I die.        60
 
The building-rook ’ll caw from the windy tall elm-tree,
And the tufted plover pipe along the fallow lea,
And the swallow ’ll come back again with summer o’er the wave,
But I shall lie alone, mother, within the moldering grave.
 
Upon the chancel casement, and upon that grave of mine,        65
In the early, early morning the summer sun ’ll shine,
Before the red cock crows from the farm upon the hill,—
When you are warm-asleep, mother, and all the world is still.
 
When the flowers come again, mother, beneath the waning light
You ’ll never see me more in the long gray fields at night;        70
When from the dry dark wold the summer airs blow cool
On the oat-grass and the sword-grass, and the bulrush in the pool.
 
You ’ll bury me, my mother, just beneath the hawthorn shade,
And you ’ll come sometimes and see me where I am lowly laid.
I shall not forget you, mother; I shall hear you when you pass,        75
With your feet above my head in the long and pleasant grass.
 
I have been wild and wayward, but you ’ll forgive me now;
You ’ll kiss me, my own mother, upon my cheek and brow;
Nay, nay, you must not weep, nor let your grief be wild;
You should not fret for me, mother—you have another child.        80
 
If I can, I ’ll come again, mother, from out my resting-place;
Though you ’ll not see me, mother, I shall look upon your face;
Though I cannot speak a word, I shall harken what you say,
And be often, often with you when you think I ’m far away.
 
Good night! good night! when I have said good night forevermore,        85
And you see me carried out from the threshold of the door,
Don’t let Effie come to see me till my grave be growing green,—
She ’ll be a better child to you than ever I have been.
 
She ’ll find my garden tools upon the granary floor.
Let her take ’em—they are hers; I shall never garden more;        90
But tell her, when I ’m gone, to train the rosebush that I set
About the parlor window and the box of mignonette.
 
Good night, sweet-mother! Call me before the day is born.
All night I lie awake, but I fall asleep at morn;
But I would see the sun rise upon the glad new-year,—        95
So, if you ’re waking, call me, call me early, mother dear.
 
CONCLUSION
I thought to pass away before, and yet alive I am;
And in the fields all around I hear the bleating of the lamb.
How sadly, I remember, rose the morning of the year!
To die before the snowdrop came, and now the violet ’s here.        100
 
O, sweet is the new violet, that comes beneath the skies;
And sweeter is the young lamb’s voice to me that cannot rise;
And sweet is all the land about, and all the flowers that blow;
And sweeter far is death than life, to me that long to go.
 
It seemed so hard at first, mother, to leave the blessèd sun,        105
And now it seems as hard to stay; and yet, His will be done!
But still I think it can’t be long before I find release;
And that good man, the clergyman, has told me words of peace.
 
O, blessings on his kindly voice, and on his silver hair,
And blessings on his whole life long, until he meet me there!        110
O, blessings on his kindly heart and on his silver head!
A thousand times I blest him, as he knelt beside my bed.
 
He taught me all the mercy, for he showed me all the sin;
Now, though my lamp was lighted late, there ’s One will let me in.
Nor would I now be well, mother, again, if that could be;        115
For my desire is but to pass to Him that died for me.
 
I did not hear the dog howl, mother, or the death-watch beat,—
There came a sweeter token when the night and morning meet;
But sit beside my bed, mother, and put your hand in mine,
And Effie on the other side, and I will tell the sign.        120
 
All in the wild March-morning I heard the angels call,—
It was when the moon was setting, and the dark was over all;
The trees began to whisper, and the wind began to roll,
And in the wild March-morning I heard them call my soul.
 
For, lying broad awake, I thought of you and Effie dear;        125
I saw you sitting in the house, and I no longer here;
With all my strength I prayed for both,—and so I felt resigned,
And up the valley came a swell of music on the wind.
 
I thought that it was fancy, and I listened in my bed;
And then did something speak to me,—I know not what was said;        130
For great delight and shuddering took hold of all my mind,
And up the valley came again the music on the wind.
 
But you were sleeping; and I said, “It ’s not for them,—it ’s mine;”
And if it comes three times, I thought, I take it for a sign.
And once again it came, and close beside the window-bars;        135
Then seemed to go right up to heaven and die among the stars.
 
So now I think my time is near; I trust it is. I know
The blessèd music went that way my soul will have to go.
And for myself, indeed, I care not if I go to-day;
But Effie, you must comfort her when I am past away.        140
 
And say to Robin a kind word, and tell him not to fret;
There ’s many a worthier than I, would make him happy yet.
If I had lived—I cannot tell—I might have been his wife;
But all these things have ceased to be, with my desire of life.
 
O, look! the sun begins to rise! the heavens are in a glow;        145
He shines upon a hundred fields, and all of them I know.
And there I move no longer now, and there his light may shine,—
Wild flowers in the valley for other hands than mine.
 
O, sweet and strange it seems to me, that ere this day is done
The voice that now is speaking may be beyond the sun,—        150
Forever and forever with those just souls and true,—
And what is life, that we should moan? why make we such ado?
 
Forever and forever, all in a blessèd home,—
And there to wait a little while till you and Effie come,—
To lie within the light of God, as I lie upon your breast,—        155
And the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest.
 
 
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