Wild bird, whose warble, liquid sweet,
Rings Eden thro’ the budded quicks,
O tell me where the senses mix,
O tell me where the passions meet,
Whence radiate: fierce extremes employ
Thy spirits in the darkening leaf,
And in the midmost heart of grief
Thy passion clasps a secret joy:
And I—my harp would prelude woe—
I cannot all command the strings;
The glory of the sum of things
Will flash along the chords and go.
I assume this canto focuses on the nightingale and its song. “ Rings Eden through the budded quicks” is good and vigorous while touching on the lost paradise. The mixture of grief and joy in the beauty of the bird’s song asserts a similar mystery in Tennyson, which he cannot fully express. The line, “Thy passion clasps a secret joy” is an attempt to do so. He feels his art is inadequate for a great truth of life: he will manage no more than a hint of it. “The glory of the sum of things” seems to me like a lazy short- hand for what he intends.
Nevertheless I find this canto convincing in its insistence that bitter loss brings one near to an inexplicable mixture of of grief and joy, because trivialities fall away leaving one with the truth of something savage and perhaps, nourishing.