A PILGRIMAGE THROUGH ‘IN MEMORIAM’ 90

 

Witch-elms that counterchange the floor
Of this flat lawn with dusk and bright;
And thou, with all thy breadth and height
Of foliage, towering sycamore;


How often, hither wandering down,
My Arthur found your shadows fair,
And shook to all the liberal air
The dust and din and steam of town:


He brought an eye for all he saw;
He mixt in all our simple sports;
They pleased him, fresh from brawling courts
And dusty purlieus of the law.


O joy to him in this retreat,
Inmantled in ambrosial dark,
To drink the cooler air, and mark
The landscape winking thro’ the heat:


O sound to rout the brood of cares,
The sweep of scythe in morning dew,
The gust that round the garden flew,
And tumbled half the mellowing pears!


O bliss, when all in circle drawn
About him, heart and ear were fed
To hear him, as he lay and read
The Tuscan poets on the lawn:


Or in the all-golden afternoon
A guest, or happy sister, sung,
Or here she brought the harp and flung
A ballad to the brightening moon:


Nor less it pleased in livelier moods,
Beyond the bounding hill to stray,
And break the livelong summer day
With banquet in the distant woods;


Whereat we glanced from theme to theme,
Discuss’d the books to love or hate,
Or touch’d the changes of the state,
Or threaded some Socratic dream;


But if I praised the busy town,
He loved to rail against it still,
For `ground in yonder social mill
We rub each other’s angles down,


‘And merge,’ he said, `in form and gloss
The picturesque of man and man.’
We talk’d: the stream beneath us ran,
The wine-flask lying couch’d in moss,


Or cool’d within the glooming wave;
And last, returning from afar,
Before the crimson-circled star
Had fall’n into her father’s grave,


And brushing ankle-deep in flowers,
We heard behind the woodbine veil
The milk that bubbled in the pail,
And buzzings of the honied hours.

This evocation of time spent with Hallam in and around the Tennyson estate in Lincolnshire is worded with careful poetic work. There are neat phrases: “ the dusty purlieus of the law” “a ballad to the brightening moon.” There are precisions: “the landscape winking through the heat” “ the sweep of scythe in morning dew”. And there are stanzas built on simple language which a small metaphor lifts into perfection: “and brushing ankle-deep in flowers/ we heard behind the woodbine veil/ the milk that bubbled in the pail/ the buzzing of the honied hours”

He is dealing with precious memories, but is careful not too lapse into conventional nothings; this and that and those are what he presents. I understand this impulse. In my memories of my daughter as my climbing buddy, it would be easy to fall into purple days on the hills, while the days themselves were hard work, scary moves, often in rain or snow. That’s what we shared.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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