English Idyls, and Other Poems


Alfred Tennyson

MY father left a park to me,
    But it is wild and barren,
A garden too with scarce a tree,
    And waster than a warren;
Yet say the neighbors when they call
    It is not bad but good land,
And in it is the germ of all
    That grows within the woodland.

O, had I lived when song was great
    In days of old Amphion,
And ta’en my fiddle to the gate,
    Nor cared for seed or scion!
And had I lived when song was great,
    And legs of trees were limber,
And ta’en my fiddle to the gate,
    And fiddled in the timber!

’Tis said he had a tuneful tongue,
    Such happy intonation,
Wherever he sat down and sung
    He left a small plantation;
Wherever in a lonely grove
    He set up his forlorn pipes,
The gouty oak began to move,
    And flounder into hornpipes.

The mountain stirr’d its bushy crown,
    And, as tradition teaches,
Young ashes pirouetted down
    Coquetting with young beeches;
And briony-vine and ivy-wreath
    Ran forward to his rhyming,
And from the valleys underneath
    Came little copses climbing.

The linden broke her ranks and rent
    The woodbine wreaths that bind her,
And down the middle, buzz! she went
    With all her bees behind her;
The poplars, in long order due,
    With cypress promenaded,
The shock-head willows two and two
    By rivers gallopaded.

Came wet-shod alder from the wave,
    Came yews, a dismal coterie;
Each pluck’d his one foot from the grave,
    Poussetting with a sloe-tree;
Old elms came breaking from the vine,
    The vine stream’d out to follow,
And, sweating rosin, plump’d the pine
    From many a cloudy hollow.

And wasn’t it a sight to see,
    When, ere his song was ended,
Like some great landslip, tree by tree,
    The country-side descended;
And shepherds from the mountain-eaves
    Look’d down, half-pleased, half-frighten’d,
As dash’d about the drunken leaves
    The random sunshine lighten’d?

O, Nature first was fresh to men,
    And wanton without measure;
So youthful and so flexile then,
    You moved her at your pleasure.
Twang out, my fiddle! shake the twigs!
    And make her dance attendance;
Blow, flute, and stir the stiff-set sprigs,
    And scirrhous roots and tendons!

’Tis vain! in such a brassy age
    I could not move a thistle;
The very sparrows in the hedge
    Scarce answer to my whistle;
Or at the most, when three-parts-sick
    With strumming and with scraping,
A jackass heehaws from the rick,
    The passive oxen gaping.

But what is that I hear? a sound
    Like sleepy counsel pleading;
O Lord!—’tis in my neighbor’s ground,
    The modern Muses reading.
They read Botanic Treatises,
    And Works on Gardening thro’ there,
And Methods of Transplanting Trees
    To look as if they grew there.

The wither’d Misses! how they prose
    O’er books of travell’d seamen,
And show you slips of all that grows
    From England to Van Diemen.
They read in arbors clipt and cut,
    And alleys, faded places,
By squares of tropic summer shut
    And warm’d in crystal cases.

But these, tho’ fed with careful dirt,
    Are neither green nor sappy;
Half-conscious of the garden-squirt,
    The spindlings look unhappy.
Better to me the meanest weed
    That blows upon its mountain,
The vilest herb that runs to seed
    Beside its native fountain.

And I must work thro’ months of toil,
    And years of cultivation,
Upon my proper patch of soil
    To grow my own plantation.
I’ll take the showers as they fall,
    I will not vex my bosom;
Enough if at the end of all
    A little garden blossom.

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