Maud: A Melodrama (1855) Part III

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Alfred Lord Tennyson’s fair copy of Maud, written 1854.

Alfred Lord Tennyson’s fair copy of Maud, written 1854.

VI

I.

My life has crept so long on a broken wing
Thro’ cells of madness, haunts of horror and fear,
That I come to be grateful at last for a little thing:
My mood is changed, for it fell at a time of year
When the face of night is fair on the dewy downs,
And the shining daffodil dies, and the Charioteer
And starry Gemini hang like glorious crowns
Over Orion’s grave low down in the west,
That like a silent lightning under the stars
She seem’d to divide in a dream from a band of the blest,
And spoke of a hope for the world in the coming wars–
‘And in that hope, dear soul, let trouble have rest,
Knowing I tarry for thee,’ and pointed to Mars
As he glow’d like a ruddy shield on the Lion’s breast.

II.

And it was but a dream, yet it yielded a dear delight
To have look’d, tho’ but in a dream, upon eyes so fair,
That had been in a weary world my one thing bright;
And it was but a dream, yet it lighten’d my despair
When I thought that a war would arise in defence of the right,
That an iron tyranny now should bend or cease,
The glory of manhood stand on his ancient height,
Nor Britain’s one sole God be the millionaire:
No more shall commerce be all in all, and Peace
Pipe on her pastoral hillock a languid note,
And watch her harvest ripen, her herd increase,
Nor the cannon-bullet rust on a slothful shore,
And the cobweb woven across the cannon’s throat
Shall shake its threaded tears in the wind no more.

III.

And as months ran on and rumour of battle grew,
‘It is time, it is time, O passionate heart,’ said I
(For I cleaved to a cause that I felt to be pure and true),
‘It is time, O passionate heart and morbid eye,
That old hysterical mock-disease should die.’
And I stood on a giant deck and mix’d my breath
With a loyal people shouting a battle cry,
Till I saw the dreary phantom arise and fly
Far into the North, and battle, and seas of death.

IV.

Let it go or stay, so I wake to the higher aims
Of a land that has lost for a little her lust of gold,
And a love of a peace that was full of wrongs and shames,
Horrible, hateful, monstrous, not to be told;
And hail once more to the banner of battle unroll’d!
Tho’ many a light shall darken, and many shall weep
For those that are crush’d in the clash of jarring claims,
Yet God’s just wrath shall be wreak’d on a giant liar;
And many a darkness into the light shall leap,
And shine in the sudden making of splendid names,
And noble thought be freër under the sun,
And the heart of a people beat with one desire;
For the peace, that I deem’d no peace, is over and done,
And now by the side of the Black and the Baltic deep,
And deathful-grinning mouths of the fortress, flames
The blood-red blossom of war with a heart of fire.

V.

Let it flame or fade, and the war roll down like a wind,
We have proved we have hearts in a cause, we are noble still,
And myself have awaked, as it seems, to the better mind;
It is better to fight for the good than to rail at the ill;
I have felt with my native land, I am one with my kind,
I embrace the purpose of God, and the doom assign’d.