In Memoriam 131: O Living Will That Shalt Endure

O living will that shalt endure
When all that seems shall suffer shock,
Rise in the spiritual rock,
Flow thro' our deeds and make them pure,

That we may lift from out of dust
A voice as unto him that hears,
A cry above the conquer'd years
To one that with us works, and trust,

With faith that comes of self-control,
The truths that never can be proved
Until we close with all we loved,
And all we flow from, soul in soul.

O true and tried, so well and long,
Demand not thou a marriage lay;
In that it is thy marriage day
Is music more than any song.

Nor have I felt so much of bliss
Since first he told me that he loved
A daughter of our house; nor proved
Since that dark day a day like this;

Tho' I since then have number'd o'er
Some thrice three years: they went and came,
Remade the blood and changed the frame,
And yet is love not less, but more;

No longer caring to embalm
In dying songs a dead regret,
But like a statue solid-set,
And moulded in colossal calm.

Regret is dead, but love is more
Than in the summers that are flown,
For I myself with these have grown
To something greater than before;

Which makes appear the songs I made
As echoes out of weaker times,
As half but idle brawling rhymes,
The sport of random sun and shade.

But where is she, the bridal flower,
That must be made a wife ere noon?
She enters, glowing like the moon
Of Eden on its bridal bower:

On me she bends her blissful eyes
And then on thee; they meet thy look
And brighten like the star that shook
Betwixt the palms of paradise.

O when her life was yet in bud,
He too foretold the perfect rose.
For thee she grew, for thee she grows
For ever, and as fair as good.

And thou art worthy; full of power;
As gentle; liberal-minded, great,
Consistent; wearing all that weight
Of learning lightly like a flower.

But now set out: the noon is near,
And I must give away the bride;
She fears not, or with thee beside
And me behind her, will not fear.

For I that danced her on my knee,
That watch'd her on her nurse's arm,
That shielded all her life from harm
At last must part with her to thee;

Now waiting to be made a wife,
Her feet, my darling, on the dead;
Their pensive tablets round her head,
And the most living words of life

Breathed in her ear. The ring is on,
The "wilt thou" answer'd, and again
The "wilt thou" ask'd, till out of twain
Her sweet "I will" has made you one.

Now sign your names, which shall be read,
Mute symbols of a joyful morn,
By village eyes as yet unborn;
The names are sign'd, and overhead

Begins the clash and clang that tells
The joy to every wandering breeze;
The blind wall rocks, and on the trees
The dead leaf trembles to the bells.

O happy hour, and happier hours
Await them. Many a merry face
Salutes them--maidens of the place,
That pelt us in the porch with flowers.

O happy hour, behold the bride
With him to whom her hand I gave.
They leave the porch, they pass the grave
That has to-day its sunny side.

To-day the grave is bright for me,
For them the light of life increased,
Who stay to share the morning feast,
Who rest to-night beside the sea.

Let all my genial spirits advance
To meet and greet a whiter sun;
My drooping memory will not shun
The foaming grape of eastern France.

It circles round, and fancy plays,
And hearts are warm'd and faces bloom,
As drinking health to bride and groom
We wish them store of happy days.

Nor count me all to blame if I
Conjecture of a stiller guest,
Perchance, perchance, among the rest,
And, tho' in silence, wishing joy.

But they must go, the time draws on,
And those white-favour'd horses wait;
They rise, but linger; it is late;
Farewell, we kiss, and they are gone.

A shade falls on us like the dark
From little cloudlets on the grass,
But sweeps away as out we pass
To range the woods, to roam the park,

Discussing how their courtship grew,
And talk of others that are wed,
And how she look'd, and what he said,
And back we come at fall of dew.

Again the feast, the speech, the glee,
The shade of passing thought, the wealth
Of words and wit, the double health,
The crowning cup, the three-times-three,

And last the dance,--till I retire:
Dumb is that tower which spake so loud,
And high in heaven the streaming cloud,
And on the downs a rising fire:

And rise, O moon, from yonder down,
Till over down and over dale
All night the shining vapour sail
And pass the silent-lighted town,

The white-faced halls, the glancing rills,
And catch at every mountain head,
And o'er the friths that branch and spread
Their sleeping silver thro' the hills;

And touch with shade the bridal doors,
With tender gloom the roof, the wall;
And breaking let the splendour fall
To spangle all the happy shores

By which they rest, and ocean sounds,
And, star and system rolling past,
A soul shall draw from out the vast
And strike his being into bounds,

And, moved thro' life of lower phase,
Result in man, be born and think,
And act and love, a closer link
Betwixt us and the crowning race

Of those that, eye to eye, shall look
On knowledge; under whose command
Is Earth and Earth's, and in their hand
Is Nature like an open book;

No longer half-akin to brute,
For all we thought and loved and did,
And hoped, and suffer'd, is but seed
Of what in them is flower and fruit;

Whereof the man, that with me trod
This planet, was a noble type
Appearing ere the times were ripe,
That friend of mine who lives in God,

That God, which ever lives and loves,
One God, one law, one element,
And one far-off divine event,
To which the whole creation moves.

by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Comments (2)

In this elaborate poem, the poet deals with many matters under the title Ars Poetica! it is full of clear ideas on poetry!
This poem is wholly rebarbative in its present form. I love Cocteau dearly, and have done since my teens, but he seems to be a poet at all times except when writing poetry. I have wrestled with these unpromising materials in what follows. Have I tamed the poem yet? Martin. Preamble A rough draft for an ars poetica. Let's get our dreams unstuck. The grain of rye free from the prattle of grass and far from the speechifying trees. I plant it – it will sprout. But forget about the rustic festivities. For the explosive word falls harmlessly eternal through the compact generations and except for you nothing denotes its sweet-scented dynamite. Greetings: I discard eloquence, the empty sail and the swollen sail which cause the ship to lose her course. My ink nicks; and there and there, and there and there, sleeps deep poetry: the mirror-panelled wardrobe washing down ice-floes, the little Eskimo girl dreaming in a heap of moist negroes, her nose flattened against the window-pane of dreary Christmases, a white bear adorned with chromatic moiré dries himself in the midnight sun. Liners. The huge luxury item slowly founders, all its lights aglow. And so sinks the evening-dress ball into the thousand mirrors of the palace hotel. And now it is I, the thin Columbus of phenomena, alone in the front of a mirror-panelled wardrobe full of linen and locked with a key. The obstinate miner of the void exploits his fertile mine – the potential in the rough glitters there mingling with its white rock. Oh princess of the mad sleep, listen to my horn and my pack of hounds. I deliver you from the forest where we came upon the spell. Here we are, by the pen, one with the other wedded on the page. Isles, sobs of Ariadne, Ariadnes dragging along Ariadnes, seals, for I betray you, my fair stanzas, to run and awaken elsewhere. I plan no architecture. Simply deaf like you, Beethoven, blind like you, Homer, numberless old men born everywhere, I elaborate in the prairies of inner silence and the work of the mission and the poem of the work and the stanza of the poem and the group of the stanza and the words of the group and the letters of the word and the least loop of the letters. It's your foot of attentive satin that I place in position, pink tightrope walker, sucked up by the void, to the left, to the right. The god gives a shake and I walk towards the other side with infinite precaution. Jean Cocteau.