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Alfred Lord Tennyson: After Reading a Life and Letters

A l f r e d   L o r d   T e n n y s o n



After Reading a Life and Letters

You might have won the Poet’s name

If such be worth the winning now,

And gain’d a laurel for your brow

Of sounder leaf than I can claim;


But you have made the wiser choice,

A life that moves to gracious ends

Thro’ troops of unrecording friends,

A deedful life, a silent voice:


And you have miss’d the irreverent doom

Of those that wear the Poet’s crown:

Hereafter, neither knave nor clown

Shall hold their orgies at your tomb.


For now the Poet cannot die

Nor leave his music as of old,

But round him ere he scarce be cold

Begins the scandal and the cry:


"Proclaim the faults he would not show:

Break lock and seal: betray the trust:

Keep nothing sacred: ’tis but just

The many-headed beast should know".


Ah, shameless! for he did but sing.

A song that pleased us from its worth;

No public life was his on earth,

No blazon’d statesman he, nor king.


He gave the people of his best:

His worst he kept, his best he gave.

My Shakespeare’s curse on clown and knave

Who will not let his ashes rest!


Who make it seem more sweet to be

The little life of bank and brier,

The bird that pipes his lone desire

And dies unheard within his tree,


Than he that warbles long and loud

And drops at Glory’s temple-gates,

For whom the carrion vulture waits

To tear his heart before the crowd!

Alfred Lord Tennyson poetry

k e m p i s   p o e t r y   m a g a z i n e

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