Verse > Anthologies > Harvard Classics > English Poetry III: From Tennyson to Whitman
   English Poetry III: From Tennyson to Whitman.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
639. You Ask Me, Why
Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892)
YOU ask me, why, tho’ ill at ease,
  Within this region I subsist,
  Whose spirits falter in the mist,
And languish for the purple seas.
It is the land that freemen till,        5
  That sober-suited Freedom chose,
  The land, where girt with friends or foes
A man may speak the thing he will;
A land of settled government,
  A land of just and old renown,        10
  Where Freedom slowly broadens down
From precedent to precedent;
Where faction seldom gathers head,
  But, by degrees to fullness wrought,
  The strength of some diffusive thought        15
Hath time and space to work and spread.
Should banded unions persecute
  Opinions, and induce a time
  When single thought is civil crime,
And individual freedom mute,        20
Tho’ power should make from land to land
  The name of Britain trebly great—
  Tho’ every channel of the State
Should fill and choke with golden sand—
Yet waft me from the harbor-mouth,        25
  Wild wind! I seek a warmer sky,
  And I will see before I die
The palms and temples of the South.


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