Verse > Anthologies > Andrew Macphail, ed. > The Book of Sorrow
Andrew Macphail, comp.  The Book of Sorrow.  1916.
XVII. Bereavement
‘’Tis well; ’tis something; we may stand’
By Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892)
From ‘In Memoriam’

’TIS well; ’tis something; we may stand
    Where he in English earth is laid,
    And from his ashes may be made
The violet of his native land.
’Tis little; but it looks in truth        5
    As if the quiet bones were blest
    Among familiar names to rest
And in the places of his youth.
Come then, pure hands, and bear the head
    That sleeps or wears the mask of sleep,        10
    And come, whatever loves to weep,
And hear the ritual of the dead.
Ah yet, ev’n yet, if this might be,
    I, falling on his faithful heart,
    Would breathing thro’ his lips impart        15
The life that almost dies in me;
That dies not, but endures with pain,
    And slowly forms the firmer mind,
    Treasuring the look it cannot find,
The words that are not heard again.
*        *        *        *        *
I sing to him that rests below,
    And, since the grasses round me wave,
    I take the grasses of the grave,
And make them pipes whereon to blow.
The traveller hears me now and then,        25
    And sometimes harshly will he speak:
    ‘This fellow would make weakness weak,
And melt the waxen hearts of men.’
Another answers, ‘Let him be,
    He loves to make parade of pain,        30
    That with his piping he may gain
The praise that comes to constancy.’
A third is wroth: ‘Is this an hour
    For private sorrow’s barren song,
    When more and more the people throng        35
The chairs and thrones of civil power?
‘A time to sicken and to swoon,
    When Science reaches forth her arms
    To feel from world to world, and charms
Her secret from the latest moon?’        40
Behold, ye speak an idle thing:
    Ye never knew the sacred dust:
    I do but sing because I must,
And pipe but as the linnets sing:
And one is glad; her note is gay,        45
    For now her little ones have ranged;
    And one is sad; her note is changed,
Because her brood is stol’n away.

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