Verse > Anthologies > Andrew Macphail, ed. > The Book of Sorrow
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Andrew Macphail, comp.  The Book of Sorrow.  1916.
 
XXXIII. Resignation
‘Strong Son of God, immortal Love’
By Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892)
 
From ‘In Memoriam’

STRONG Son of God, immortal Love,
    Whom we, that have not seen thy face,
    By faith, and faith alone, embrace,
Believing where we cannot prove;
 
Thine are these orbs of light and shade;        5
    Thou madest Life in man and brute;
    Thou madest Death; and lo, thy foot
Is on the skull which thou hast made.
 
Thou wilt not leave us in the dust:
    Thou madest man, he knows not why;        10
    He thinks he was not made to die;
And thou hast made him: thou art just.
 
I will not shut me from my kind,
    And, lest I stiffen into stone,
    I will not eat my heart alone,        15
Nor feed with sighs a passing wind:
 
What profit lies in barren faith,
    And vacant yearning, tho’ with might
    To scale the heaven’s highest height,
Or dive below the wells of Death?        20
 
What find I in the highest place
    But mine own phantom chanting hymns?
    And on the depths of death there swims
The reflex of a human face.
 
I’ll rather take what fruit may be        25
    Of sorrow under human skies:
    ’Tis held that sorrow makes us wise,
Whatever wisdom sleep with thee.
 
With trembling fingers did we weave
    The holly round the Christmas hearth;        30
    A rainy cloud possess’d the earth,
And sadly fell our Christmas-eve.
 
At our old pastimes in the hall
    We gambol’d, making vain pretence
    Of gladness, with an awful sense        35
Of one mute Shadow watching all.
 
We paused: the winds were in the beech:
    We heard them sweep the winter land;
    And in a circle hand-in-hand
Sat silent, looking each at each.        40
 
Then echo-like our voices rang;
    We sung, tho’ every eye was dim,
    A merry song we sang with him
Last year: impetuously we sang:
 
We ceased: a gentler feeling crept        45
    Upon us: surely rest is meet:
    ‘They rest,’ we said, ‘their sleep is sweet,’
And silence follow’d, and we wept.
 
Our voices took a higher range;
    Once more we sang: ‘They do not die        50
    Nor lose their mortal sympathy,
Nor change to us, although they change.’…
 
Again at Christmas did we weave
    The holly round the Christmas hearth;
    The silent snow possess’d the earth,        55
And calmly fell our Christmas-eve:
 
The yule-clog sparkled keen with frost,
    No wing of wind the region swept,
    But over all things brooding slept
The quiet sense of something lost.        60
 
As in the winters left behind,
    Again our ancient games had place,
    The mimic picture’s breathing grace,
And dance and song and hoodman-blind.
 
Who show’d a token of distress?        65
    No single tear, no mark of pain:
    O sorrow, then can sorrow wane?
O grief, can grief be changed to less?
 
O last regret, regret can die!
    No—mixt with all this mystic frame,        70
    Her deep relations are the same,
But with long use her tears are dry.
 
 
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