And was the day of my delight
As pure and perfect as I say?
The very source and fount of Day
Is dash’d with wandering isles of night.
If all was good and fair we met,
This earth had been the Paradise
It never look’d to human eyes
Since our first Sun arose and set.
And is it that the haze of grief
Makes former gladness loom so great?
The lowness of the present state,
That sets the past in this relief?
Or that the past will always win
A glory from its being far;
And orb into the perfect star
We saw not, when we moved therein?
Tennyson questions his own view of how perfect the time of his friendship with Hallam really was. I find his words about the source and fount of day slightly opaque. He must mean the sun, I guess. So what are these wandering isles of night? Planets, seen against the sun? Sunspots? The latter I think.
He asks whether this world could ever been seen as a paradise. Perhaps the past always appears wonderful from the perspective of present sorrow. Or is the past a planet that looks perfect from a distance? These musings are intended to reassure the reader that the poet can question his own ideal image of his friendship with Hallam.
I know that I have at times gilded my lived relationship with my late daughter, ignoring the damage we did each other.