Verse > Anthologies > Andrew Macphail, ed. > The Book of Sorrow
Andrew Macphail, comp.  The Book of Sorrow.  1916.
XXXII. Visions
‘How pure at heart and sound in head’
By Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892)
From ‘In Memoriam’

HOW pure at heart and sound in head,
    With what divine affections bold
    Should be the man whose thought would hold
An hour’s communion with the dead.
In vain shalt thou, or any, call        5
    The spirits from their golden day,
    Except, like them, thou too canst say,
My spirit is at peace with all.
They haunt the silence of the breast,
    Imaginations calm and fair,        10
    The memory like a cloudless air,
The conscience as a sea at rest:
But when the heart is full of din,
    And doubt beside the portal waits,
    They can but listen at the gates,        15
And hear the household jar within.
I shall not see thee. Dare I say
    No spirit ever brake the band
    That stays him from the native land,
Where first he walk’d when claspt in clay?        20
No visual shade of some one lost,
    But he, the Spirit himself, may come
    Where all the nerve of sense is numb;
Spirit to Spirit, Ghost to Ghost.
O, therefore from thy sightless range        25
    With gods in unconjectured bliss,
    O, from the distance of the abyss
Of tenfold-complicated change,
Descend, and touch, and enter; hear
    The wish too strong for words to name;        30
    That in this blindness of the frame
My Ghost may feel that thine is near.
How fares it with the happy dead?
    For here the man is more and more;
    But he forgets the days before        35
God shut the doorways of his head.
The days have vanish’d, tone and tint,
    And yet perhaps the hoarding sense
    Gives out at times (he knows not whence)
A little flash, a mystic hint;        40
And in the long harmonious years
    (If Death so taste Lethean springs)
    May some dim touch of earthly things
Surprise thee ranging with thy peers.
If such a dreamy touch should fall,        45
    O turn thee round, resolve the doubt;
    My guardian angel will speak out
In that high place, and tell thee all.
Tears of the widower, when he sees
    A late-lost form that sleep reveals,        50
    And moves his doubtful arms, and feels
Her place is empty, fall like these;
Which weep a loss for ever new,
    A void where heart on heart reposed;
    And, where warm hands have prest and closed,        55
Silence, till I be silent too.
Which weep the comrade of my choice,
    An awful thought, a life removed,
    The human-hearted man I loved,
A Spirit, not a breathing voice.        60
Come Time, and teach me, many years,
    I do not suffer in a dream;
    For now so strange do these things seem,
Mine eyes have leisure for their tears.

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