Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Choric Song: ‘There is sweet music here that softer falls’
By Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892)
From ‘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 through 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 weighed 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,
  The folded leaf is wooed from out the bud
    With winds upon the branch, and there
    Grows green and broad, and takes no care,
      Sun-steeped at noon, and in the moon
      Nightly dew-fed; and turning yellow        30
    Falls, and floats adown the air.
      Lo! sweetened 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 labor 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 whispered 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
        Heaped 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 suffered change:
    For surely now our household hearths 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 labor unto aged breath,        85
  Sore task to hearts worn out by 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 eyelid 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 through the thick-twinèd vine—        95
    To watch the emerald-colored water falling
  Through many a woven acanthus wreath divine!
  Only to hear and see the far-off sparkling brine,
Only to hear were sweet, stretched out beneath the pine.
      The Lotos blooms below the barren peak;
      The Lotos blows by every winding creek;
    All day the wind breathes low with mellower tone;
      Through 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
Rolled to starboard, rolled 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 reclined
On the hills like Gods together, careless of mankind.        110
For they lie beside their nectar, and the bolts are hurled
Far below them in the valleys, and the clouds are lightly curled
Round their golden houses, girdled with the gleaming world;
Where they 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 though 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 whispered—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 labor in the deep mid-ocean, wind and wave and oar;
Oh rest ye, brother mariners, we will not wander more.

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