Verse > Anthologies > Andrew Macphail, ed. > The Book of Sorrow
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Andrew Macphail, comp.  The Book of Sorrow.  1916.
 
XXVI. Melancholy
From ‘Aylmer’s Field’
By Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892)
 
FRIENDS, I was bid to speak of such a one
By those who most have cause to sorrow for her—
Fairer than Rachel by the palmy well,
Fairer than Ruth among the fields of corn,
Fair as the Angel that said ‘hail’ she seem’d,        5
Who entering fill’d the house with sudden light.
For so mine own was brighten’d: where indeed
The roof so lowly but that beam of Heaven
Dawn’d sometime thro’ the doorway? whose the babe
Too ragged to be fondled on her lap,        10
Warm’d at her bosom? The poor child of shame,
The common care whom no one cared for, leapt
To greet her, wasting his forgotten heart,
As with the mother he had never known,
In gambols; for her fresh and innocent eyes        15
Had such a star of morning in their blue,
That all neglected places of the field
Broke into nature’s music when they saw her.
Low was her voice, but won mysterious way
Thro’ the seal’d ear to which a louder one        20
Was all but silence—free of alms her hand—
The hand that robed your cottage-walls with flowers
Has often toil’d to clothe your little ones;
How often placed upon the sick man’s brow
Cool’d it, or laid his feverous pillow smooth!        25
Had you one sorrow and she shared it not?
One burthen and she would not lighten it?
One spiritual doubt she did not soothe?
Or when some heat of difference sparkled out,
How sweetly would she glide between your wraths,        30
And steal you from each other! for she walk’d
Wearing the light yoke of that Lord of love,
Who still’d the rolling wave of Galilee!
And one—of him I was not bid to speak—
Was always with her, whom you also knew.        35
Him too you loved, for he was worthy love.
And these had been together from the first;
They might have been together till the last.
Friends, this frail bark of ours, when sorely tried,
May wreck itself without the pilot’s guilt,        40
Without the captain’s knowledge: hope with me.
Whose shame is that, if he went hence with shame?
Nor mine the fault, if losing both of these
I cry to vacant chairs and widow’d walls,
‘My house is left unto me desolate.’…        45
 
 
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