Fair ship, that from the Italian shore
Sailest the placid ocean-plains
With my lost Arthur’s loved remains,
Spread thy full wings, and waft him o’er.
So draw him home to those that mourn
In vain; a favourable speed
Ruffle thy mirror’d mast, and lead
Thro’ prosperous floods his holy urn.
All night no ruder air perplex
Thy sliding keel, till Phosphor, bright
As our pure love, thro’ early light
Shall glimmer on the dewy decks.
Sphere all your lights around, above;
Sleep, gentle heavens, before the prow;
Sleep, gentle winds, as he sleeps now,
My friend, the brother of my love;
My Arthur, whom I shall not see
Till all my widow’d race be run;
Dear as the mother to the son,
More than my brothers are to me.
This section begins a meditation on the ship bringing Arthur Hallam’s ashes back to England. The journey is depicted as gracious, peaceful, and dignified. The ship is itself an image of beauty – Spread thy full wings , he urges it. Then he slips in a phrase so delicate that the reader has to pause in order to understand it: ‘a favourable speed/ ruffle thy mirrored mast’. The ship’s mast is mirrored in a calm sea, but as it picks up speed, the image in the water is ruffled by the bow-wave. Phosphor is Venus the light – bringer, the morning star. The elements conspire to cradle Hallam as his ashes are brought home.
We again note that Tennyson compares himself to a widow, and affirms that his love Hallam is beyond familial love. But he blunders in calling him “my Arthur” as if he has ownership, and by making comparison between different loves, which should never be done, as each of our love relationships is unique. He assumes that at his own death he will be re-united in heaven with his friend. He does not think this is at all presumptuous- his God will doubtless arrange it. This coarseness is the result seeing oneself as a bereaved person, which can engender a certain self-satisfaction.