Love is and was my Lord and King,
And in his presence I attend
To hear the tidings of my friend,
Which every hour his couriers bring.

Love is and was my King and Lord,
And will be, tho’ as yet I keep
Within his court on earth, and sleep
Encompass’d by his faithful guard,

And hear at times a sentinel
Who moves about from place to place,
And whispers to the worlds of space,
In the deep night, that all is well.

Here at the centre of this great poem every word counts. He has managed the hardest task of making clear a genuine discovery of spiritual presence, and he must not spoil it. So ‘Love is and was my Lord and King’ is good provided it resists the language of the hymn book. Can he really get news, in any sense, of his friend in this relationship with his Lord? And what does it mean, “to sleep encompassed by his faithful guard”? Is a mild piety creeping in? On the other hand the sense of a sentinel who whispers to the worlds of space that all is well, carries the force of conviction.

I do not share this conviction.My faith, along with the fact of my daughter’s life and death, tells me that everything is not well, and must all be changed. But I respect Tennyson’s vision, which he shares with many others. Dame Julian of Norwich says it for me, “All shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”

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