Urania speaks with darken’d brow:
`Thou pratest here where thou art least;
This faith has many a purer priest,
And many an abler voice than thou.

‘Go down beside thy native rill,
On thy Parnassus set thy feet,
And hear thy laurel whisper sweet
About the ledges of the hill.’

And my Melpomene replies,
A touch of shame upon her cheek:
`I am not worthy ev’n to speak
Of thy prevailing mysteries;

‘For I am but an earthly Muse,
And owning but a little art
To lull with song an aching heart,
And render human love his dues;

‘But brooding on the dear one dead,
And all he said of things divine,
(And dear to me as sacred wine
To dying lips is all he said),

‘I murmur’d, as I came along,
Of comfort clasp’d in truth reveal’d;
And loiter’d in the master’s field,
And darken’d sanctities with song.’

Urania was the muse of astronomy, then of heavenly matters in general, then of Christian poetry. Melpomene was the muse of the Greek dramatic chorus, then of tragedy, then of serious poetry. Tennyson uses them to acknowledge the kind of criticism made by me of the previous canto. His muse explains she only intended to deal with human love and loss but got sidetracked into more profound concerns where she lacked competence. Of course if Tennyson really thought any canto incompetent he would have removed it, so we are to see this apology as poetic playfulness. He further exculpates himself by mentioning all that Hallam “said of things divine” but as we do not know what these were, we cannot gauge the worth of them.

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