Contents

Enoch Arden
The Lotus Eaters
Crossing the Bar
To Rev. F. D. Maurice
From Maud 1 The Shell
From Maud 2 Moonlight
Part of In Memoriam A.H.H. Pulsations of the world

Enoch Arden


The southern shore of the Isle of Wight includes a number of either submerged or partially submerged sea caves. The exposure of the south coast of the island to high wave energy has allowed the erosion of the Cretaceous calcareous hard cliffs to form sea caves (the closed counterpart of the open chines). Examples of this habitat can be found from the Needles along the south-west coast of the Island to Watcombe Bay, and also in Culver Cliff on the south-east coast of the Island. This site also contains the only known location of subtidal chalk caves in the UK. The large littoral caves in the chalk cliffs are of ecological importance, with many hosting rare algal species, which are restricted to this type of habitat. The fauna of these sea caves includes a range of mollusc species such as limpets Patella spp. and the horseshoe worm Phoronis hippocrepia.

Enoch Arden, a humble fisherman, marries Annie Lee. He signs on as a sailor to make more money to support their growing family. A storm wrecks his ship, but Enoch swims to a deserted island. Annie waits vainly for his return. It is based on a true story and Tennyson's treatment of it seized the imagination of Victorians of all classes.

The setting in the opening lines is a small fishing village nestling below coastal downland between cliffs with sea caves.

Long lines of cliff breaking have left a chasm;
And in the chasm are foam and yellow sands;
Beyond, red roofs about a narrow wharf
In cluster; then a moulder’d church; and higher
A long street climbs to one tall-tower’d mill;
And high in heaven behind it a gray down
With Danish barrows; and a hazelwood,
By autumn nutters haunted, flourishes
Green in a cuplike hollow of the down.

The village has been equated with Freshwater about half a mile from Tennyson's home at Farringford. In the following extract Tennyson first describes the tropical environment of the shipwrecked Enoch Arden. This is very much like the Isle of Wight would have been in its age of dinosaurs. Then he contrasts the exotic landscape of the marooned sailor with his downland home.

The mountain wooded to the peak, the lawns
And winding glades high up like ways to Heaven,
The slender coco's drooping crown of plumes,
The lightning flash of insect and of bird,
The lustre of the long convolvuluses
That coiled around the stately stems, and ran
Even to the limit of the land, the glows
And glories of the broad belt of the world,
All these he saw; but what he fain had seen
He could not see, the kindly human face,
Nor ever hear a kindly voice, but heard
The myriad shriek of wheeling ocean-fowl,
The league-long roller thundering on the reef,
The moving whisper of huge trees that branched
And blossomed in the zenith, or the sweep
Of some precipitous rivulet to the wave,
As down the shore he ranged, or all day long
Sat often in the seaward-gazing gorge,
A shipwrecked sailor, waiting for a sail:
No sail from day to day, but every day
The sunrise broken into scarlet shafts
Among the palms and ferns and precipices;
The blaze upon the waters to the east;
The blaze upon his island overhead;
The blaze upon the waters to the west;
Then the great stars that globed themselves in Heaven,
The hollower-bellowing ocean, and again
The scarlet shafts of sunrise — but no sail.

There often as he watched or seemed to watch,
So still, the golden lizard on him paused,
A phantom made of many phantoms moved
Before him haunting him, or he himself
Moved haunting people, things and places, known
Far in a darker isle beyond the line;
The babes, their babble, Annie, the small house,
The climbing street, the mill, the leafy lanes,
The peacock-yewtree and the lonely Hall,
The horse he drove, the boat he sold, the chill
November dawns and dewy-glooming downs,
The gentle shower, the smell of dying leaves,
And the low moan of leaden-coloured seas.
Once likewise, in the ringing of his ears,
Though faintly, merrily — far and far away —
He heard the pealing of his parish bells;
Then, though he knew not wherefore, started up
Shuddering, and when the beauteous hateful isle
Returned upon him, had not his poor heart
Spoken with That, which being everywhere
Lets none, who speaks with Him, seem all alone,
Surely the man had died of solitude.


The complete poem


The Lotus Eaters


The Lotus Eaters or Lotophagi are a fabulous people who occupied the north coast of Africa and lived on the lotus, which brought forgetfulness and happy indolence. They appear in the Odyssey. When Odysseus landed among them, some of his men ate the food. They forgot their friends and home and had to be dragged back to the ships. “The Lotus-Eaters” by Tennyson has become a classic of English poetry. The following extract describes a land of outstanding natural beauty.

`Courage!' he said, and pointed toward the land, `
This mounting wave will roll us shoreward soon.'
In the afternoon they came unto a land
In which it seemed always afternoon.
All round the coast the languid air did swoon,
Breathing like one that hath a weary dream.
Full-faced above the valley stood the moon;
And like a downward smoke, the slender stream
Along the cliff to fall and pause and fall did seem.

A land of streams! some, like a downward smoke,
Slow-dropping veils of thinnest lawn, did go;
And some through wavering lights and shadows broke,
Rolling a slumbrous sheet of foam below.
They saw the gleaming river seaward flow
From the inner land: far off, three mountain-tops,
Three silent pinnacles of aged snow,
Stood sunset-flushed: and, dewed with showery drops,
Up-clomb the shadowy pine above the woven copse.

The charmed sunset lingered low adown
In the red West: through mountain clefts the dale
Was seen far inland, and the yellow down
Bordered with palm, and many a winding vale
And meadow, set with slender galingale;
A land where all things always seemed the same!
And round about the keel with faces pale,
Dark faces pale against that rosy flame,
The mild-eyed melancholy Lotos-eaters came.

Branches they bore of that enchanted stem,
Laden with flower and fruit, whereof they gave
To each, but whoso did receive of them,
And taste, to him the gushing of the wave
Far far away did seem to mourn and rave
On alien shores; and if his fellow spake,
His voice was thin, as voices from the grave;
And deep-asleep he seemed, yet all awake,
And music in his ears his beating heart did make.

They sat them down upon the yellow sand,
Between the sun and moon upon the shore;
And sweet it was to dream of Fatherland,
Of child, and wife, and slave; but evermore
Most weary seemed the sea, weary the oar,
Weary the wandering fields of barren foam.
Then some one said, 'We will return no more;'
And all at once they sang, 'Our island home
Is far beyond the wave; we will no longer roam.'

Complete poem


Crossing the Bar


The speaker heralds the setting of the sun and the rise of the evening star, and hears that he is being called. He hopes that the ocean will not make the mournful sound of waves beating against a sand bar when he sets out to sea. Rather, he wishes for a tide that is so full that it cannot contain sound or foam and therefore seems asleep when all that has been carried from the boundless depths of the ocean returns back out to the depths. The speaker announces the close of the day and the evening bell, which will be followed by darkness. He hopes that no one will cry when he dies, because although he may be carried beyond the limits of time and space as we know them, he retains the hope that he will look upon the face of his "Pilot" when he has crossed the bar between life and death.

Tennyson wrote "Crossing the Bar" in 1889, three years before he died. The poem describes his placid and accepting attitude toward death. Although he followed this work with subsequent poems, he requested that "Crossing the Bar" appear as the final poem in all collections of his work.


Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.

To Rev. F. D. Maurice


In every age certain people emerge whose voice, character, personality and ideals captivate those around them. On this day, April 1, 1872, such a one took his last breath. Frederick Denison Maurice was the "most beautiful human soul" that Christian novelist Charles Kingsley had known. "O, he was the prophet, he was the prophet!" exclaimed Thomas Hughes, another Christian novelist. A third acquaintance spoke of Maurice as the most Christ-like individual he had met.

Maurice died of overwork. He had written books and pamphlets, edited newspapers, preached, attended the sick, and taught in both traditional and workingmen's schools all his life, despite physical weakness--rising early each day and not slacking pace until after evening dinner. Even as a boy he spent little time on amusement. The Bible, histories, and adult meetings occupied his childhood leisure.

In this poem Tennyson invites Maurice to stay with him at Farringford in springtime.


Come, when no graver cares employ,
Godfather, come and see your boy:
Your presence will be sun in winter,
Making the little one leap for joy.

For, being of that honest few,
Who give the Fiend himself his due,
Should eighty-thousand college-councils
Thunder 'Anathema,' friend, at you;

Should all our churchmen foam in spite
At you, so careful of the right,
Yet one lay-hearth would give you welcome
(Take it and come) to the Isle of Wight;

Where, far from noise and smoke of town,
I watch the twilight falling brown
All round a careless-ordered garden
Close to the ridge of a noble down.

You'll have no scandal while you dine,
But honest talk and wholesome wine,
And only hear the magpie gossip
Garrulous under a roof of pine:

For groves of pine on either hand,
To break the blast of winter, stand;
And further on, the hoary Channel
Tumbles a billow on chalk and sand;

Where, if below the milky steep
Some ship of battle slowly creep,
And on through zones of light and shadow
Glimmer away to the lonely deep,

We might discuss the Northern sin
Which made a selfish war begin;
Dispute the claims, arrange the chances;
Emperor, Ottoman, which shall win:

Or whether war's avenging rod
Shall lash all Europe into blood;
Till you should turn to dearer matters,
Dear to the man that is dear to God;

How best to help the slender store,
How mend the dwellings, of the poor;
How gain in life, as life advances,
Valour and charity more and more.

Come, Maurice, come: the lawn as yet
Is hoar with rime, or spongy-wet;
But when the wreath of March has blossomed,
Crocus, anemone, violet,

Or later, pay one visit here,
For those are few we hold as dear;
Nor pay but one, but come for many,
Many and many a happy year.

From 'Maud'


A critic has said that much of Tennyson's longer poems are unreadable today, partly because of their obscure symbolism based on classical literature but also because they are tedious for people used to instant gratification in a media dominated world. However, embedded within these hundred-liners are the frequent 'lollipops', which can easily be taken out of context and read for the sheer delight they communicate. Today, we welcome this opportunity to skip over the intervening massed words but in 1853 Mathew Arnold criticised Tennyson for producing this kind of poem 'which have no beginning, middle or end, but are holdings forth in verse, which, for anything in the nature of the composition itself may perfectly well go on for ever' . Maude is a good example of this. It jumps from one set of emotions to another, often in a different metre. The following extract, where Tennyson is describing a past inhabitant of one of his everday strandline microcosms at Freshwater, is almost an aside from the main theme.

See what a lovely shell,
Small and pure as a pearl,
Lying close to my foot,
Frail, but a work divine,
Made so fairily well
With delicate spire and whorl,
How exquisitely minute,
A miracle of design!

What is it? a learned man
Could give it a clumsy name.
Let him name it who can,
The beauty would be the same.

The tiny cell is forlorn,
Void of the little living will
That made it stir on the shore.
Did he stand at the diamond door
Of his house in a rainbow frill?
Did he push, when he was uncurled,
A golden foot or a fairy horn
Through his dim water-world?

IV
Slight, to be crushed with a tap
Of my finger-nail on the sand,
Small, but a work divine,
Frail, but of force to withstand,
Year upon year, the shock
Of cataract seas that snap
The three decker's oaken spine
Athwart the ledges of rock,
Here on the Breton strand!

From Maud


Awakened from a dream by the coming and going of moonlight through his bedroom window, Tennyson is unsettled and walks in the garden of Farringford where he finds the daffodil killed by the salt sea wind coming over the down.

Pale with the golden beam of an eyelash dead on the cheek,
Passionless, pale, cold face, star-sweet on a gloom profound;
Womanlike, taking revenge too deep for a transient wrong
Done but in thought to your beauty, and ever as pale as before
Growing and fading and growing upon me without a sound,
Luminous, gemlike, ghostlike, deathlike, half the night long
Growing and fading and growing, till I could bear it no more,
But arose, and all by myself in my own dark garden ground,
Listening now to the tide in its broad-flung shipwrecking roar,
Now to the scream of a maddened beach dragged down by the
wave,
Walked in a wintry wind by a ghastly glimmer, and found
The shining daffodil dead, and Orion low in his grave.

Part of In Memoriam A. H. H.


In Memoriam was written to express his feelings about the death of his dearest friend Arthur Hallam, a long poem in lyrical form in which he tries to resolve the twin despairs of grief and religious doubt. Here his comfortable transcendental vision of his dead friend crumbles when he tries to reconcile immortal phantoms of memory with the physical reality of 'the deep pulsations of the world' revealed by a transient breeze at dawn. The cosmos has nothing more to offer humankind.

So word by word, and line by line,
The dead man touched me from the past,
And all at once it seemed at last
The living soul was flashed on mine,

And mine in this was wound, and whirled
About empyreal heights of thought,
And came on that which is, and caught
The deep pulsations of the world,

AEonian music measuring out
The steps of Time – the shocks of Chance
The blows of Death. At length my trance
Was cancelled, stricken through with doubt.

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

Till now the doubtful dusk revealed
The knolls once more where, couched at ease,
The white kine glimmered, and the trees
Laid their dark arms about the field:

And sucked 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,
Rocked 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.