"The Lotos-Eaters"1
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)



1   ' Courage !' he said, and pointed toward the land, 
2   'This mounting wave will roll us shoreward soon.' 
3   In the afternoon they came unto a land 2 
4   In which it seemed always afternoon. 
5   All round the coast the languid air did swoon, 
6   Breathing like one that hath a weary dream. 
7   Full-faced above the valley stood the moon; 
8   And like a downward smoke, the slender stream 3 
9   Along the cliff to fall and pause and fall did seem. 

10   A land of streams! some, like a downward smoke, 
11   Slow-dropping veils of thinnest lawn, 4 did go; 
12   And some thro' wavering lights and shadows broke, 
13   Rolling a slumbrous sheet of foam below. 
14   They saw the gleaming river seaward flow 
15   From the inner land: far off, three mountain-tops, 
16   Three silent pinnacles of aged snow, 
17   Stood sunset-flush'd: and, dew'd with showery drops, 
18   Up-clomb the shadowy pine above the woven copse. 

19   The charmed sunset linger'd low adown 
20   In the red West: thro' mountain clefts the dale 
21   Was seen far inland, and the yellow down 
22   Border'd with palm, and many a winding vale 
23   And meadow, set with slender galingale; 5 
24   A land where all things always seem'd the same! 
25   And round about the keel with faces pale, 
26   Dark faces pale against that rosy flame, 
27   The mild-eyed melancholy Lotos-eaters came. 

28   Branches they bore of that enchanted stem, 
29   Laden with flower and fruit, whereof they gave 
30   To each, but whoso did receive of them, 
31   And taste, to him the gushing of the wave 
32   Far far away did seem to mourn and rave 
33   On alien shores; and if his fellow spake, 
34   His voice was thin, as voices from the grave; 
35   And deep-asleep he seem'd, yet all awake, 
36   And music in his ears his beating heart did make. 

37   They sat them down upon the yellow sand, 
38   Between the sun and moon upon the shore; 
39   And sweet it was to dream of Fatherland, 
40   Of child, and wife, and slave; but evermore 
41   Most weary seem'd the sea, weary the oar, 
42   Weary the wandering fields 6 of barren foam. 
43   Then some one said, 'We will return no more;' 
44   And all at once they sang, 'Our island home 
45   Is far beyond the wave; we will no longer roam.' 


		CHORIC SONG. 

		I. 

46   There is sweet music here that softer falls 
47   Than petals from blown roses on the grass, 
48   Or night-dews on still waters between walls 
49   Of shadowy granite, in a gleaming pass; 
50   Music that gentlier on the spirit lies, 
51   Than tir'd eyelids upon tir'd eyes; 7 
52   Music that brings sweet sleep down from the blissful skies. 
53   Here are cool mosses deep, 
54   And thro' the moss the ivies creep, 
55   And in the stream the long-leaved flowers weep, 
56   And from the craggy ledge the poppy hangs in sleep. 


		II. 

57   Why are we weigh'd upon with heaviness, 
58   And utterly consumed with sharp distress, 
59   While all things else have rest from weariness? 
60   All things have rest: why should we toil alone, 
61   We only toil, who are the first of things, 
62   And make perpetual moan, 
63   Still from one sorrow to another thrown: 
64   Nor ever fold our wings, 
65   And cease from wanderings, 
66   Nor steep our brows in slumber's holy balm; 
67   Nor harken what the inner spirit sings, 
68   'There is no joy but calm!' 
69   Why should we only toil, the roof and crown of things? 


		III. 

70   Lo! in the middle of the wood, 
71   The folded leaf is woo'd from out the bud 
72   With winds upon the branch, and there 
73   Grows green and broad, and takes no care, 
74   Sun-steep'd at noon, and in the moon 
75   Nightly dew-fed; and turning yellow 
76   Falls, and floats adown the air. 
77   Lo! sweeten'd with the summer light, 
78   The full-juiced apple, waxing over-mellow, 
79   Drops in a silent autumn night. 
80   All its allotted length of days, 
81   The flower ripens in its place, 
82   Ripens and fades, and falls, and hath no toil, 
83   Fast-rooted in the fruitful soil. 


		IV. 

84   Hateful is the dark-blue sky, 
85   Vaulted o'er the dark-blue sea. 
86   Death is the end of life; ah, why 
87   Should life all labour be? 
88   Let us alone. Time driveth onward fast, 
89   And in a little while our lips are dumb. 
90   Let us alone. What is it that will last? 
91   All things are taken from us, and become 
92   Portions and parcels of the dreadful Past. 
93   Let us alone. What pleasure can we have 
94   To war with evil? Is there any peace 
95   In ever climbing up the climbing wave? 
96   All things have rest, and ripen toward the grave 
97   In silence; ripen, fall and cease: 
98   Give us long rest or death, dark death, or dreamful ease. 


		V. 

99   How sweet it were, hearing the downward stream, 
100   With half-shut eyes ever to seem 
101   Falling asleep in a half-dream! 
102   To dream and dream, like yonder amber light, 
103   Which will not leave the myrrh-bush on the height; 
104   To hear each other's whisper'd speech; 
105   Eating the Lotos day by day, 
106   To watch the crisping ripples on the beach, 
107   And tender curving lines of creamy spray; 
108   To lend our hearts and spirits wholly 
109   To the influence of mild-minded melancholy; 8 
110   To muse and brood and live again in memory, 
111   With those old faces of our infancy 
112   Heap'd over with a mound of grass, 
113   Two handfuls of white dust, shut in an urn of brass! 


		VI. 

114   Dear is the memory of our wedded lives, 
115   And dear the last embraces of our wives 
116   And their warm tears: but all hath suffer'd change: 
117   For surely now our household hearths are cold: 
118   Our sons inherit us: our looks are strange: 
119   And we should come like ghosts to trouble joy. 
120   Or else the island princes over-bold 
121   Have eat our substance, and the minstrel sings 
122   Before them of the ten years' war in Troy, 
123   And our great deeds, as half-forgotten things. 
124   Is there confusion in the little isle? 
125   Let what is broken so remain. 
126   The Gods are hard to reconcile: 
127   'Tis hard to settle order once again. 
128   There is confusion worse than death, 
129   Trouble on trouble, pain on pain, 
130   Long labour unto aged breath, 
131   Sore task to hearts worn out by many wars 
132   And eyes grown dim with gazing on the pilot-stars. 


		VII. 

133   But, propt on beds of amaranth 9 and moly, 10 
134   How sweet (while warm airs lull us, blowing lowly) 
135   With half-dropt eyelid still, 
136   Beneath a heaven dark and holy, 
137   To watch the long bright river drawing slowly 
138   His waters from the purple hill--- 
139   To hear the dewy echoes calling 
140   From cave to cave thro' the thick-twined vine--- 
141   To watch the emerald-colour'd water falling 
142   Thro' many a wov'n acanthus-wreath 11 divine! 
143   Only to hear and see the far-off sparkling brine, 
144   Only to hear were sweet, stretch'd out beneath the pine. 


		VIII. 

145   The Lotos blooms below the barren peak: 
146   The Lotos blows by every winding creek: 
147   All day the wind breathes low with mellower tone: 
148   Thro' every hollow cave and alley lone 
149   Round and round the spicy downs the yellow Lotosdust is blown. 
150   We have had enough of action, and of motion we, 
151   Roll'd to starboard, roll'd to larboard, when the surge was seething free, 
152   Where the wallowing monster spouted his foamfountains in the sea. 
153   Let us swear an oath, and keep it with an equal mind, 
154   In the hollow Lotos-land to live and lie reclined 
155   On the hills like Gods together, careless of mankind. 
156   For they lie beside their nectar, and the bolts are hurl'd 
157   Far below them in the valleys, and the clouds are lightly curl'd 
158   Round their golden houses, girdled with the gleaming world: 
159   Where they smile in secret, looking over wasted lands, 
160   Blight and famine, plague and earthquake, roaring deeps and fiery sands, 
161   Clanging fights, and flaming towns, and sinking ships, and praying hands. 
162   But they smile, they find a music centred in a doleful song 
163   Steaming up, a lamentation and an ancient tale of wrong, 
164   Like a tale of little meaning tho' the words are strong; 
165   Chanted from an ill-used race of men that cleave the soil, 
166   Sow the seed, and reap the harvest with enduring toil, 
167   Storing yearly little dues of wheat, and wine and oil; 
168   Till they perish and they suffer---some, 'tis whisper'd---down in hell 
169   Suffer endless anguish, others in Elysian valleys dwell, 
170   Resting weary limbs at last on beds of asphodel. 
171   Surely, surely, slumber is more sweet than toil, the shore 
172   Than labour in the deep mid-ocean, wind and wave and oar; 
173   Oh rest ye, brother mariners, we will not wander more. 

Notes

1. The treatment of ( Oenone and The Lotos-Eaters is, as far as I know, original. Of course the subject of The Lotos-Eaters is taken from the Odyssey , ix. 82 foll.

2. "The strand" was, I think, my first reading, but the no rhyme of "land" and "land" was lazier.

3. Taken from the waterfall at Gavarnie, in the Pyrenees, when I was 20 or 21.

4. Lying among these mountains before this waterfall, that comes down one thousand or twelve hundred feet, I sketched it (according to my custom then) in these words.

5. I meant the Cyperus papyrus of Linnęus.

6. Made by me on a voyage from Bordeaux to Dublin (1830). I saw a great creamy slope of sea on the horizon, rolling toward us.
I often, as I say, chronicle on the spot, in four or five words or more, whatever strikes me as picturesque in nature.

7. I printed, contrary to my custom, "tir'd," not "tired," for fear that the readers might pronounce the word "tirčd," whereas I wished them to read it "tiėrd," prolonging as much as might be the diphthongic i.

8. An early sonnet ( Englishman's Magazine , 1831) ran thus:
Check every outflash, every ruder sally
Of thought and speech; speak low, and give up wholly
Thy spirit to mild-minded Melancholy.

9. the immortal flower of legend.

10. the sacred herb of mystical power, used as a charm by Odysseus against Circe.

11. the plant seen in the capitals of Corinthian pillars.