Demeter, and Other Poems


Alfred Tennyson

Exegi monumentum . . . 
Quod non . . . 
Possit diruere . . . 
                                 . . . innumerabilis
Annorum series et fuga temporum.—HORACE.

WHAT BE those crown’d forms high over the sacred fountain?
Bards, that the mighty Muses have raised to the heights of the mountain,
And over the flight of the Ages! O Goddesses, help me up thither!
Lightning may shrivel the laurel of Cæsar, but mine would not wither.
Steep is the mountain, but you, you will help me to overcome it,
And stand with my head in the zenith, and roll my voice from the summit,
Sounding for ever and ever thro’ Earth and her listening nations,
And mixt with the great sphere-music of stars and of constellations.

What be those two shapes high over the sacred fountain,
Taller than all the Muses, and huger than all the mountain?
On those two known peaks they stand ever spreading and heightening;
Poet, that evergreen laurel is blasted by more than lightning!
Look, in their deep double shadow the crown’d ones all disappearing!
Sing like a bird and be happy, nor hope for a deathless hearing!
‘Sounding for ever and ever?’ pass on! the sight confuses—
These are Astronomy and Geology, terrible Muses!

If the lips were touch’d with fire from off a pure Pierian altar,
Tho’ their music here be mortal need the singer greatly care?
Other songs for other worlds! the fire within him would not falter;
Let the golden Iliad vanish, Homer here is Homer there.

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