Thursday, September 1, 2011

Tears, Idle Tears - Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
In looking on the happy autumn fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more.

Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail,
That brings our friends up from the underworld,
Sad as the last which reddens over one
That sinks with all we love below the verge;
So sad, so fresh, the days that are no more.

Ah, sad and strange as in dark summer dawns
The earliest pipe of half-awakened birds
To dying ears, when unto dying eyes
The casement slowly grows a glimmering square;
So sad, so strange, the days that are no more.

Dear as remembered kisses after death,
And sweet as those by hopeless fancy feigned
On lips that are for others; deep as love,
Deep as first love, and wild with all regret;
O Death in Life, the days that are no more!

The striking repetition of "the days that are no more" are to me, idle tears.  They are overwhelming, incomprehensible reminders of the past, which exist in a realm not governed by conscious faculties.  Memories and sense memories so powerful that they can reduce us to tears are things that we've all encountered at some point.

The otherworldly imagery employed only heightens the sense of the incomprehensible power of our own memories, and our attachments to the past.  It's also some beautiful imagery.  I particularly enjoy the passage, "Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail,/That brings our friends up from the underworld"  It's a very apt description of memory.  Our memories can be crisp and clear as the image of sailing on a wonderful day, but at the same time, they dredge up long dead friends, alive forever in the boat of our memory.  Fantastic imagery.

1 comment:

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