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.
Perfect Unity
By Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892)
From ‘The Princess’

“BLAME not thyself too much,” I said, “nor blame
Too much the sons of men and barbarous laws:
These were the rough ways of the world till now.
Henceforth thou hast a helper, me, that know
The woman’s cause is man’s; they rise or sink        5
Together, dwarfed or godlike, bond or free:
For she that out of Lethe scales with man
The shining steps of Nature, shares with man
His nights, his days, moves with him to one goal,
Stays all the fair young planet in her hands—        10
If she be small, slight-natured, miserable,
How shall men grow? But work no more alone!
Our place is much: as far as in us lies
We two will serve them both in aiding her;
Will clear away the parasitic forms        15
That seem to keep her up but drag her down;
Will leave her space to burgeon out of all
Within her; let her make herself her own
To give or keep, to live and learn and be
All that not harms distinctive womanhood.        20
For women is not undevelopt man,
But diverse: could we make her as the man,
Sweet Love were slain; his dearest bond is this,
Not like to like, but like in difference.
Yet in the long years liker must they grow;        25
The man be more of woman, she of man:
He gain in sweetness and in moral height,
Nor lose the wrestling thews that throw the world;
She mental breadth, nor fail in childward care,
Nor lose the childlike in the larger mind:        30
Till at the last she set herself to man,
Like perfect music unto noble words;
And so these twain, upon the skirts of Time,
Sit side by side, full-summed in all their powers,
Dispensing harvest, sowing the To-be,        35
Self-reverent each and reverencing each,
Distinct in individualities,
But like each other even as those who love.
Then comes the statelier Eden back to men;
Then reign the world’s great bridals, chaste and calm;        40
Then springs the crowning race of human-kind.
May these things be!”
                Sighing she spoke, “I fear
They will not.”
            “Dear, but let us type them now
In our own lives, and this proud watchword rest
Of equal; seeing either sex alone        45
Is half itself, and in true marriage lies
Nor equal, nor unequal; each fulfills
Defect in each, and always thought in thought,
Purpose in purpose, will in will, they grow,
The single pure and perfect animal,        50
The two-celled heart beating, with one full stroke,
    And again sighing she spoke: “A dream
That once was mine! What woman taught you this?”
  “Alone,” I said, “from earlier than I know,
Immersed in rich foreshadowings of the world,        55
I loved the woman: he that doth not, lives
A drowning life, besotted in sweet self,
Or pines in sad experience worse than death,
Or keeps his winged affections clipt with crime:
Yet was there one through whom I loved her,—one        60
Not learnèd, save in gracious household ways;
Not perfect, nay, but full of tender wants;
No Angel, but a dearer being, all dipt
In Angel instincts, breathing Paradise,
Interpreter between the Gods and men;        65
Who looked all native to her place, and yet
On tiptoe seemed to touch upon a sphere
Too gross to tread, and all male minds perforce
Swayed to her from their orbits as they moved,
And girdled her with music. Happy he        70
With such a mother! Faith in womankind
Beats with his blood, and trust in all things high
Comes easy to him; and though he trip and fall,
He shall not blind his soul with clay.”
                            “But I,”
Said Ida tremulously, “so all unlike—        75
It seems you love to cheat yourself with words:
This mother is your model. I have heard
Of your strange doubts: they well might be; I seem
A mockery to my own self. Never, Prince:
You cannot love me.”
                    “Nay, but thee,” I said,
“From year-long poring on thy pictured eyes,
Ere seen I loved, and loved thee seen, and saw
Thee woman through the crust of iron moods
That masked thee from men’s reverence up, and forced
Sweet love on pranks of saucy boyhood: now,        85
Given back to life, to life indeed, through thee,
Indeed I love; the new day comes, the light
Dearer for night, as dearer thou for faults
Lived over: lift thine eyes; my doubts are dead,
My haunting sense of hollow shows: the change,        90
This truthful change in thee, has killed it. Dear,
Look up, and let thy nature strike on mine,
Like yonder morning on the blind half-world;
Approach and fear not; breathe upon my brows:
In that fine air I tremble; all the past        95
Melts mist-like into this bright hour, and this
Is morn to more, and all the rich to-come
Reels, as the golden Autumn woodland reels
Athwart the smoke of burning weeds. Forgive me
I waste my heart in signs: let be. My bride,        100
My wife, my life. Oh, we will walk this world,
Yoked in all exercise of noble end,
And so through those dark gates across the wild
That no man knows. Indeed I love thee; come,
Yield thyself up,—my hopes and thine are one:        105
Accomplish thou my manhood and thyself;
Lay thy sweet hands in mine and trust to me.”

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