The School Bag

from In Memoriam

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Old Yew, which graspest at the stones
     That name the under-lying dead,
     Thy fibres net the dreamless head,
Thy roots are wrapt about the bones.

The seasons bring the flower again,
     And bring the firstling to the flock;
     And in the dusk of thee, the clock
Beats out the little lives of men.

O not for thee the glow, the bloom,
     Who changest not in any gale,
     Nor branding summer suns avail
To touch thy thousand years of gloom:

And gazing on thee, sullen tree,
     Sick for thy stubborn hardihood,
     I seem to fail from out my blood
And grow incorporate into thee.

I sometimes hold it half a sin
     To put in words the grief I feel;
     For words, like Nature, half reveal
And half conceal the Soul within.

But, for the unquiet heart and brain,
     A use in measured language lies;
     The sad mechanic exercise,
Like dull narcotics, numbing pain.

In words, like weeds, I'll wrap me o'er,
     Like coarsest clothes against the cold:
     But that large grief which these enfold
Is given in outline and no more.

Dark house, by which once more I stand
     Here in the long unlovely street,
     Doors, where my heart was used to beat
So quickly, waiting for a hand,

A hand that can be clasp'd no more—
     Behold me, for I cannot sleep,
     And like a guilty thing I creep
At earliest morning to the door.

He is not here; but far away
     The noise of life begins again,
     And ghastly thro' the drizzling rain
On the bald street breaks the blank day.

Fair ship, that from the Italian shore
     Sailest the placid ocean-plains
     With my lost Arthur's loved remains,
Spread thy full wings, and waft him o'er.

So draw him home to those that mourn
     In vain; a favourable speed
     Ruffle thy mirror'd mast, and lead
Thro' prosperous floods his holy urn.

All night no ruder air perplex
     Thy sliding keel, till Phosphor, bright
     As our pure love, thro' early light
Shall glimmer on the dewy decks.

Sphere all your lights around, above;
     Sleep, gentle heavens, before the prow;
     Sleep, gentle winds, as he sleeps now,
My friend, the brother of my love;

My Arthur, whom I shall not see
     Till all my widow'd race be run;
     Dear as the mother to the son,
More than my brothers are to me.

Calm is the morn without a sound,
     Calm as to suit a calmer grief,
     And only thro' the faded leaf
The chestnut pattering to the ground:

Calm and deep peace on this high wold,
     And on these dews that drench the furze,
     And all the silvery gossamers
That twinkle into green and gold:

Calm and still light on yon great plain
     That sweeps with all its autumn bowers,
     And crowded farms and lessening towers,
To mingle with the bounding main:

Calm and deep peace in this wide air,
     These leaves that redden to the fall;
     And in my heart, if calm at all,
If any calm, a calm despair:

Calm on the seas, and silver sleep,
     And waves that sway themselves in rest,
     And dead calm in that noble breast
Which heaves but with the heaving deep.

If one should bring me this report,
     That thou hadst touch'd the land to-day,
     And I went down unto the quay,
And found thee lying in the port;

And standing, muffled round with woe,
     Should see thy passengers in rank
     Come stepping lightly down the plank,
And beckoning unto those they know;

And if along with these should come
     The man I held as half-divine;
     Should strike a sudden hand in mine,
And ask a thousand things of home;

And I should tell him all my pain,
     And how my life had droop'd of late,
     And he should sorrow o'er my state
And marvel what possess'd my brain;

And I perceived no touch of change,
     No hint of death in all his frame,
     But found him all in all the same,
I should not feel it to be strange.

To-night the winds begin to rise
     And roar from yonder dropping day:
     The last red leaf is whirl'd away,
The rooks are blown about the skies;

The forest crack'd, the waters curl'd,
     The cattle huddled on the lea;
     And wildly dash'd on tower and tree
The sunbeam strikes along the world:

And but for fancies, which aver
     That all thy motions gently pass
     Athwart a plane of molten glass,
I scarce could brook the strain and stir

That makes the barren branches loud;
     And but for fear it is not so,
     The wild unrest that lives in woe
Would dote and pore on yonder cloud

That rises upward always higher,
     And onward drags a labouring breast,
     And topples round the dreary west,
A looming bastion fringed with fire.

The time draws near the birth of Christ:
     The moon is hid; the night is still;
     The Christmas bells from hill to hill
Answer each other in the mist.

Four voices of four hamlets round,
     From far and near, on mead and moor,
     Swell out and fail, as if a door
Were shut between me and the sound:

Each voice four changes on the wind,
     That now dilate, and now decrease,
     Peace and goodwill, goodwill and peace,
Peace and goodwill, to all mankind.

This year I slept and woke with pain,
     I almost wish'd no more to wake,
     And that my hold on life would break
Before I heard those bells again:

But they my troubled spirit rule,
     For they controll'd me when a boy;
     They bring me sorrow touch'd with joy,
The merry merry bells of Yule.

With trembling fingers did we weave
     The holly round the Christmas hearth;
     A rainy cloud possess'd the earth,
And sadly fell our Christmas-eve.

At our old pastimes in the hall
     We gambol'd, making vain pretence
     Of gladness, with an awful sense
Of one mute Shadow watching all.

We paused: the winds were in the beech:
     We heard them sweep the winter land;
     And in a circle hand-in-hand
Sat silent, looking each at each.

Then echo-like our voices rang;
     We sung, tho' every eye was dim,
     A merry song we sang with him
Last year: impetuously we sang:

We ceased: a gentler feeling crept
     Upon us: surely rest is meet:
     ‘They rest,’ we said, ‘their sleep is sweet,’
And silence follow'd, and we wept.

Our voices took a higher range;
     Once more we sang: `They do not die
     Nor lose their mortal sympathy,
Nor change to us, although they change;

'Rapt from the fickle and the frail
     With gather'd power, yet the same,
     Pierces the keen seraphic flame
From orb to orb, from veil to veil.'

Rise, happy morn, rise, holy morn,
     Draw forth the cheerful day from night:
     O Father, touch the east, and light
The light that shone when Hope was born.

Be near me when my light is low,
     When the blood creeps, and the nerves prick
     And tingle; and the heart is sick,
And all the wheels of Being slow.

Be near me when the sensuous frame
     Is rack'd with pangs that conquer trust;
     And Time, a maniac scattering dust,
And Life, a Fury slinging flame.

Be near me when my faith is dry,
     And men the flies of latter spring,
     That lay their eggs, and sting and sing
And weave their petty cells and die.

Be near me when I fade away,
     To point the term of human strife,
     And on the low dark verge of life
The twilight of eternal day.

Oh yet we trust that somehow good
     Will be the final goals of ill,
     To pangs of nature, sins of will,
Defects of doubt, and taints of blood;

That nothing walks with aimless feet;
     That not one life shall be destroy'd,
     Or cast as rubbish to the void,
When God hath made the pile complete;

That not a worm is cloven in vain;
     That not a moth with vain desire
     Is shrivell'd in a fruitless fire,
Or but subserves another's gain.

Behold, we know not anything;
     I can but trust that good shall fall
     At last—far off—at last, to all,
And every winter change to spring.

So runs my dream: but what am I?
     An infant crying in the night:
     An infant crying for the light:
And with no language but a cry.

When on my bed the moonlight falls,
     I know that in thy place of rest
     By that broad water of the west,
There comes a glory on the walls;

Thy marble bright in dark appears,
     As slowly steals a silver flame
     Along the letters of thy name,
And o'er the number of thy years.

The mystic glory swims away;
     From off my bed the moonlight dies;
     And closing eaves of wearied eyes
I sleep till dusk is dipt in gray;

And then I know the mist is drawn
     A lucid veil from coast to coast,
     And in the dark church like a ghost
Thy tablet glimmers to the dawn.

I past beside the reverend walls
     In which of old I wore the gown;
     I roved at random thro' the town,
And saw the tumult of the halls;

And heard once more in college fanes
     The storm their high-built organs make,
     And thunder-music, rolling, shake
The prophet blazon'd on the panes;

And caught once more the distant shout,
     The measured pulse of racing oars
     Among the willows; paced the shores
And many a bridge, and all about

The same gray flats again, and felt
     The same, but not the same; and last
     Up that long walk of limes I past
To see the rooms in which he dwelt.

Another name was on the door:
     I linger'd; all within was noise
     Of songs, and clapping hands, and boys
That crash'd the glass and beat the floor;

Where once we held debate, a band
     Of youthful friends, on mind and art,
     And labour, and the changing mart,
And all the framework of the land;

When one would aim an arrow fair,
     But send it slackly from the string;
     And one would pierce an outer ring,
And one an inner, here and there;

And last the master-bowman, he,
     Would cleave the mark. A willing ear
     We lent him. Who, but hung to hear
The rapt oration flowing free

From point to point, with power and grace
     And music in the bounds of law,
     To those conclusions when we saw
The God within him light his face,

And seem to lift the form, and glow
     In azure orbits heavenly-wise;
     And over those ethereal eyes
The bar of Michael Angelo.

By night we linger'd on the lawn,
     For underfoot the herb was dry;
     And genial warmth; and o'er the sky
The silvery haze of summer drawn;

And calm that let the tapers burn
     Unwavering: not a cricket chirr'd:
     The brook alone far-off was heard,
And on the board the fluttering urn:

And bats went round in fragrant skies,
     And wheel'd or lit the filmy shapes
     That haunt the dusk, with ermine capes
And woolly breasts and beaded eyes;

While now we sang old songs that peal'd
     From knoll to knoll, where, couch'd at ease,
     The white kine glimmer'd, and the trees
Laid their dark arms about the field.

But when those others, one by one,
     Withdrew themselves from me and night,
     And in the house light after light
Went out, and I was all alone,

A hunger seized my heart; I read
     Of that glad year which once had been,
     In those fall'n leaves which kept their green,
The noble letters of the dead:

And strangely on the silence broke
     The silent-speaking words, and strange
     Was love's dumb cry defying change
To test his worth; and strangely spoke

The faith, the vigour, bold to dwell
     On doubts that drive the coward back,
     And keen thro' wordy snares to track
Suggestion to her inmost cell.

So word by word, and line by line,
     The dead man touch'd me from the past,
     And all at once it seem'd at last
The living soul was flash'd on mine,

And mine in his was wound, and whirl'd
     About empyreal heights of thought,
     And came on that which is, and caught
The deep pulsations of the world,

Æonian music measuring out
     The steps of Time—the shocks of Chance--
     The blows of Death. At length my trance
Was cancell'd, stricken thro' with doubt.

Vague words! but ah, how hard to frame
     In matter-moulded forms of speech,
     Or ev'n for intellect to reach
Thro' memory that which I became:

Till now the doubtful dusk reveal'd
     The knolls once more where, couch'd at ease,
     The white kine glimmer'd, and the trees
Laid their dark arms about the field;

And suck'd from out the distant gloom
     A breeze began to tremble o'er
     The large leaves of the sycamore,
And fluctuate all the still perfume,

And gathering freshlier overhead,
     Rock'd the full-foliaged elms, and swung
     The heavy-folded rose, and flung
The lilies to and fro, and said,

'The dawn, the dawn,' and died away;
     And East and West, without a breath,
     Mixt their dim lights, like life and death,
To broaden into boundless day.

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
     The flying cloud, the frosty light:
     The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
     Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
     The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
     For those that here we see no more;
     Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
     And ancient forms of party strife;
     Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
     The faithless coldness of the times;
     Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
     The civic slander and the spite;
     Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
     Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
     Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
     The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
     Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

spoken = Leon Fernandez