Peace; come away: the song of woe
Is after all an earthly song:
Peace; come away: we do him wrong
To sing so wildly: let us go.
Come; let us go: your cheeks are pale;
But half my life I leave behind:
Methinks my friend is richly shrined;
But I shall pass; my work will fail.
Yet in these ears, till hearing dies,
One set slow bell will seem to toll
The passing of the sweetest soul
That ever look’d with human eyes.
I hear it now, and o’er and o’er,
Eternal greetings to the dead;
And `Ave, Ave, Ave,’ said,
‘Adieu, adieu,’ for evermore.
He may be talking to his sister here. Her grief for her fiancé is not part of his poem.
He accepts that grieving is an earthly thing and may be of any value to the dead. The second stanza balances Tennyson’s satisfaction at the poetic shrine he is making for Hallam, with the fact that he too will die, and his work be forgotten. Shakespeare expressed confidence that beyond his death, his loved one would continue to grow in eternal lines. Tennyson is more modest.
When he calls Hallam the “sweetest soul that ever looked with human eyes” I ofind the words odd and oddly affecting. His bell which says “ave and adieu” is partly a reminiscence of Catullus’ poem on the death of his brother, which Tennyson loved: “et in perpetuam, frater, ave ataque vale”