Alfred Lord Tennyson

Here you will find the Long Poem Amphion of poet Alfred Lord Tennyson


MY father left a park to me, 
 But it is wild and barren, 
A garden too with scarce a tree, 
 And waster than a warren: 
Yet say the neighbours when they call, 
 It is not bad but good land, 
And in it is the germ of all 
 That grows within the woodland. 

O had I lived when song was great 
 In days of old Amphion, 
And ta'en my fiddle to the gate, 
 Nor cared for seed or scion! 
And had I lived when song was great, 
 And legs of trees were limber, 
And ta'en my fiddle to the gate, 
 And fiddled in the timber! 

'Tis said he had a tuneful tongue, 
 Such happy intonation, 
Wherever he sat down and sung 
 He left a small plantation; 
Wherever in a lonely grove 
 He set up his forlorn pipes, 
The gouty oak began to move, 
 And flounder into hornpipes. 

The mountain stirr'd its bushy crown, 
 And, as tradition teaches, 
Young ashes pirouetted down 
 Coquetting with young beeches; 
And briony-vine and ivy-wreath 
 Ran forward to his rhyming, 
And from the valleys underneath 
 Came little copses climbing. 

The linden broke her ranks and rent 
 The woodbine wreaths that bind her, 
And down the middle, buzz! she went 
 With all her bees behind her: 
The poplars, in long order due, 
 With cypress promenaded, 
The shock-head willows two and two 
 By rivers gallopaded. 

Came wet-shod alder from the wave, 
 Came yews, a dismal coterie; 
Each pluck'd his one foot from the grave, 
 Poussetting with a sloe-tree: 
Old elms came breaking from the vine, 
 The vine stream'd out to follow, 
And, sweating rosin, plump'd the pine 
 From many a cloudy hollow. 

And wasn't it a sight to see, 
 When, ere his song was ended, 
Like some great landslip, tree by tree, 
 The country-side descended; 
And shepherds from the mountain-eaves 
 Look'd down, half-pleased, half-frighten'd, 
As dash'd about the drunken leaves 
 The random sunshine lighten'd! 

Oh, nature first was fresh to men, 
 And wanton without measure; 
So youthful and so flexile then, 
 You moved her at your pleasure. 
Twang out, my fiddle! shake the twigs' 
 And make her dance attendance; 
Blow, flute, and stir the stiff-set sprigs, 
 And scirrhous roots and tendons. 

'Tis vain ! in such a brassy age 
 I could not move a thistle; 
The very sparrows in the hedge 
 Scarce answer to my whistle; 
'Or at the most, when three-parts-sick 
 With strumming and with scraping, 
A jackass heehaws from the rick, 
 The passive oxen gaping. 

But what is that I hear ? a sound 
 Like sleepy counsel pleading; 
O Lord !--'tis in my neighbour's ground, 
 The modern Muses reading. 
They read Botanic Treatises, 
 And Works on Gardening thro' there, 
And Methods of transplanting trees 
 To look as if they grew there. 

The wither'd Misses! how they prose 
 O'er books of travell'd seamen, 
And show you slips of all that grows 
 From England to Van Diemen. 
They read in arbours clipt and cut, 
 And alleys, faded places, 
By squares of tropic summer shut 
 And warm'd in crystal cases. 

But these, tho' fed with careful dirt, 
 Are neither green nor sappy; 
Half-conscious of the garden-squirt, 
 The spindlings look unhappy. 
Better to me the meanest weed 
 That blows upon its mountain, 
The vilest herb that runs to seed 
 Beside its native fountain. 

And I must work thro' months of toil, 
 And years of cultivation, 
Upon my proper patch of soil 
 To grow my own plantation. 
I'll take the showers as they fall, 
 I will not vex my bosom: 
Enough if at the end of all 
 A little garden blossom.