The path by which we twain did go,
Which led by tracts that pleased us well,
Thro’ four sweet years arose and fell,
From flower to flower, from snow to snow:
And we with singing cheer’d the way,
And, crown’d with all the season lent,
From April on to April went,
And glad at heart from May to May:
But where the path we walk’d began
To slant the fifth autumnal slope,
As we descended following Hope,
There sat the Shadow fear’d of man;
Who broke our fair companionship,
And spread his mantle dark and cold,
And wrapt thee formless in the fold,
And dull’d the murmur on thy lip,
And bore thee where I could not see
Nor follow, tho’ I walk in haste,
And think, that somewhere in the waste
The Shadow sits and waits for me.
This canto begins a section of the poem which remembers the years of friendship with Hallam. Tennyson uses a phrase, from a to b, to give a sense of the continuous joy that they experienced in each other’s companionship. This is an important section for his readers who need to trust Tennyson’s assertion that this was a splendid relationship. This canto with its repeated assertions doesn’t quite do the job.
The Shadow is also not quite terrible enough. I might call this kind of writing journalistic, as it gives information in metaphorical language that is not far away from cliché, but it takes the story along at a good pace. That may be a virtue in a long poem.
I know, because I have tried to do it, how hard it is to convey to others the essence of a profound relationship.