What hope is here for modern rhyme
To him, who turns a musing eye
On songs, and deeds, and lives, that lie
Foreshorten’d in the tract of time?
These mortal lullabies of pain
May bind a book, may line a box,
May serve to curl a maiden’s locks;
Or when a thousand moons shall wane
A man upon a stall may find,
And, passing, turn the page that tells
A grief, then changed to something else,
Sung by a long-forgotten mind.
But what of that? My darken’d ways
Shall ring with music all the same;
To breathe my loss is more than fame,
To utter love more sweet than praise.
Tennyson continues to apply his truth about human insignificance to his own poetry and specifically to this poem, which he describes as “mortal lullabies of pain.” That phrase along with the one immediately preceding, “the lives that lie foreshortened in the tract of time” reveal Tennyson’s characteristic ability to create summary wordings that are complex as well as accurate.
The image of a future man picking up the now old poem from a bookstall works well with his readers who are the sort of people who frequent bookstalls. Like me. I guess he might have been pleased that his poem is being read in 2022 with no sign of going out of currency.