You leave us: you will see the Rhine,
And those fair hills I sail’d below,
When I was there with him; and go
By summer belts of wheat and vine
To where he breathed his latest breath,
That City. All her splendour seems
No livelier than the wisp that gleams
On Lethe in the eyes of Death.
Let her great Danube rolling fair
Enwind her isles, unmark’d of me:
I have not seen, I will not see
Vienna; rather dream that there,
A treble darkness, Evil haunts
The birth, the bridal; friend from friend
Is oftener parted, fathers bend
Above more graves, a thousand wants
Gnarr at the heels of men, and prey
By each cold hearth, and sadness flings
Her shadow on the blaze of kings:
And yet myself have heard him say,
That not in any mother town
With statelier progress to and fro
The double tides of chariots flow
By park and suburb under brown
Of lustier leaves; nor more content,
He told me, lives in any crowd,
When all is gay with lamps, and loud
With sport and song, in booth and tent,
Imperial halls, or open plain;
And wheels the circled dance, and breaks
The rocket molten into flakes
Of crimson or in emerald rain.
The contrast between Tennyson’s bereaved imagination of Vienna and the report of the city given by Hallam reveals his knowledge of his own grieved perceptions and the ‘real world’. I think he is saying that both have their integrity. The canto allows the reader to set Tennyson’s grief against the liveliness of a great city.
The theme is instigated by his brother Charles’s honeymoon tour which included Vienna. Although Tennyson does not refer to this fact, it may have been the source of his bitter reflection in the city.
My daughter died in a hospital, where many times staff had worked hard to preserve her life and health. Of course I have no bitterness towards that place, or any other connected with her illness. Perhaps if I had something / someone to blame for her death, I would be able to shake off an abiding melancholy?