Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. II. Love
Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume II. Love.  1904.
VI. Lovers
The Sleeping Beauty
Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892)
From “The Day Dream”

YEAR after year unto her feet,
  She lying on her couch alone,
Across the purple coverlet,
  The maiden’s jet-black hair has grown;
On either side her trancèd form        5
  Forth streaming from a braid of pearl;
The slumberous light is rich and warm,
  And moves not on the rounded curl.
The silk star-broidered coverlid
  Unto her limbs itself doth mould,        10
Languidly ever; and amid
  Her full black ringlets, downward rolled,
Glows forth each softly-shadowed arm,
  With bracelets of the diamond bright.
Her constant beauty doth inform        15
  Stillness with love, and day with light.
She sleeps: her breathings are not heard
  In palace chambers far apart.
The fragrant tresses are not stirred
  That lie upon her charmèd heart.        20
She sleeps; on either hand upswells
  The gold-fringed pillow lightly prest:
She sleeps, nor dreams, but ever dwells
  A perfect form in perfect rest.
ALL precious things discovered late,
  To those that seek them issue forth;
For love in sequel works with fate,
  And draws the veil from hidden worth.
He travels far from other skies,
  His mantle glitters on the rocks—        30
A fairy prince, with joyful eyes,
  And lighter-footed than the fox.
The bodies and the bones of those
  That strove in other days to pass,
Are withered in the thorny close,        35
  Or scattered blanching in the grass.
He gazes on the silent dead:
  “They perished in their daring deeds.”
This proverb flashes through his head:
  “The many fail; the one succeeds.”        40
He comes, scarce knowing what he seeks.
  He breaks the hedge; he enters there;
The color flies into his cheeks;
  He trusts to light on something fair;
For all his life the charm did talk        45
  About his path, and hover near
With words of promise in his walk,
  And whispered voices in his ear.
More close and close his footsteps wind;
  The magic music in his heart        50
Beats quick and quicker, till he find
  The quiet chamber far apart.
His spirit flutters like a lark,
  He stoops, to kiss her, on his knee:
“Love, if thy tresses be so dark,        55
  How dark those hidden eyes must be!”
A touch, a kiss! the charm was snapt.
  There rose a noise of striking clocks,
And feet that ran, and doors that clapt,
  And barking dogs, and crowing cocks;        60
A fuller light illumined all,
  A breeze through all the garden swept,
A sudden hubbub shook the hall,
  And sixty feet the fountain leapt.
The hedge broke in, the banner blew,        65
  The butler drank, the steward scrawled,
The fire shot up, the martin flew,
  The parrot screamed, the peacock squalled,
The maid and page renewed their strife,
  The palace banged, and buzzed and clackt,        70
And all the long-pent stream of life
  Dashed downward in a cataract.
At last with these the king awoke,
  And in his chair himself upreared,
And yawned, and rubbed his face, and spoke,        75
  “By holy rood, a royal beard!
How say you? we have slept, my lords.
  My beard has grown into my lap.”
The barons swore, with many words,
  ’T was but an after-dinner’s nap.        80
“Pardy,” returned the king, “but still
  My joints are something stiff or so.
My lord, and shall we pass the bill
  I mentioned half an hour ago?”
The chancellor, sedate and vain,        85
  In courteous words returned reply:
But dallied with his golden chain,
  And, smiling, put the question by.
And on her lover’s arm she leant,
  And round her waist she felt it fold;        90
And far across the hills they went
  In that new world which is the old.
Across the hills, and far away
  Beyond their utmost purple rim,
And deep into the dying day,        95
  The happy princess followed him.
“I ’d sleep another hundred years,
  O love, for such another kiss;”
“O wake forever, love,” she hears,
  “O love, ’t was such as this and this.”        100
And o’er them many a sliding star,
  And many a merry wind was borne,
And, streamed through many a golden bar,
  The twilight melted into morn.
“O eyes long laid in happy sleep!”        105
  “O happy sleep that lightly fled!”
“O happy kiss, that woke thy sleep!”
  “O love, thy kiss would wake the dead!”
And o’er them many a flowing range
  Of vapor buoyed the crescent bark;        110
And, rapt thro’ many a rosy change,
  The twilight died into the dark.
“A hundred summers! can it be?
  And whither goest thou, tell me where?”
“O, seek my father’s court with me,        115
  For there are greater wonders there.”
And o’er the hills, and far away
  Beyond their utmost purple rim,
Beyond the night, across the day,
  Thro’ all the world she followed him.        120

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