Monday, October 03, 2005

Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal

by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Now sleeps the crimson petal, now the white;
Nor waves the cypress in the palace walk;
Nor winks the gold fin in the porphyry font:
The fire-fly wakens: waken thou with me.

Now droops the milkwhite peacock like a ghost,
And like a ghost she glimmers on to me.

Now lies the Earth all Danaƫ to the stars,
And all thy heart lies open unto me.

Now slides the silent meteor on, and leaves
A shining furrow, as thy thoughts in me.

Now folds the lily all her sweetness up,
And slips into the bosom of the lake:
So fold thyself, my dearest, thou, and slip
Into my bosom and be lost in me.

* * *

This is one of those emotional, romantic poems that some people find empty. But, whether it's to someone's personal taste or not, there's more to it than just emotion. It isn't just a blind outpouring of feeling.

For example, there is a specific setting, probably a fictional one. This matches with Tennyson's tendency to use invented people and places in his lyric poetry. It gives a note of nobility to the poem.

There's also an ascendency of images: first, drowsy images, to remind us that it is night. Second, the fireflies bring in the sense of wakefulness. The succeeding metaphors show different aspects of the couple's love. Finally, the last metaphor expresses a hope for union.

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