Home  »  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895  »  The Blackbird

Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Frederick Tennyson b. 1807

The Blackbird

HOW sweet the harmonies of afternoon!

The Blackbird sings along the sunny breeze

His ancient song of leaves, and summer boon;

Rich breath of hayfields streams thro’ whispering trees;

And birds of morning trim their bustling wings,

And listen fondly—while the Blackbird sings.

How soft the lovelight of the West reposes

On this green valley’s cheery solitude,

On the trim cottage with its screen of roses,

On the gray belfry with its ivy hood,

And murmuring mill-race, and the wheel that flings

Its bubbling freshness—while the Blackbird sings.

The very dial on the village church

Seems as ’t were dreaming in a dozy rest;

The scribbled benches underneath the porch

Bask in the kindly welcome of the West;

But the broad casements of the old Three Kings

Blaze like a furnace—while the Blackbird sings.

And there beneath the immemorial elm

Three rosy revellers round a table sit,

And thro’ gray clouds give laws unto the realm,

Curse good and great, but worship their own wit,

And roar of fights, and fairs, and junketings,

Corn, colts, and curs—the while the Blackbird sings.

Before her home, in her accustom’d seat,

The tidy Grandam spins beneath the shade

Of the old honeysuckle, at her feet

The dreaming pug, and purring tabby laid;

To her low chair a little maiden clings,

And spells in silence—while the Blackbird sings.

Sometimes the shadow of a lazy cloud

Breathes o’er the hamlet with its gardens green,

While the far fields with sunlight overflow’d

Like golden shores of Fairyland are seen;

Again, the sunshine on the shadow springs,

And fires the thicket where the Blackbird sings.

The woods, the lawn, the peaked Manor-house,

With its peach-cover’d walls, and rookery loud,

The trim, quaint garden alleys, screen’d with boughs,

The lion-headed gates, so grim and proud,

The mossy fountain with its murmurings,

Lie in warm sunshine—while the Blackbird sings.

The ring of silver voices, and the sheen

Of festal garments—and my Lady streams

With her gay court across the garden green;

Some laugh, and dance, some whisper their love-dreams;

And one calls for a little page; he strings

Her lute beside her—while the Blackbird sings.

A little while—and lo! the charm is heard,

A youth, whose life has been all Summer, steals

Forth from the noisy guests around the board,

Creeps by her softly; at her footstool kneels;

And, when she pauses, murmurs tender things

Into her fond ear—while the Blackbird sings.

The smoke-wreaths from the chimneys curl up higher,

And dizzy things of eve begin to float

Upon the light; the breeze begins to tire;

Half way to sunset with a drowsy note

The ancient clock from out the valley swings;

The Grandam nods—and still the Blackbird sings.

Far shouts and laughter from the farmstead peal,

Where the great stack is piling in the sun;

Thro’ narrow gates o’erladen wagons reel,

And barking curs into the tumult run;

While the inconstant wind bears off, and brings

The merry tempest—and the Blackbird sings.

On the high wold the last look of the sun

Burns, like a beacon, over dale and stream;

The shouts have ceased, the laughter and the fun;

The Grandam sleeps, and peaceful be her dream;

Only a hammer on an anvil rings;

The day is dying—still the Blackbird sings.

Now the good Vicar passes from his gate

Serene, with long white hair; and in his eye

Burns the clear spirit that hath conquer’d Fate,

And felt the wings of immortality;

His heart is throng’d with great imaginings,

And tender mercies—while the Blackbird sings.

Down by the brook he bends his steps, and thro’

A lowly wicket; and at last he stands

Awful beside the bed of one who grew

From boyhood with him—who with lifted hands

And eyes, seems listening to far welcomings,

And sweeter music than the Blackbird sings.

Two golden stars, like tokens from the Blest,

Strike on his dim orbs from the setting sun;

His sinking hands seem pointing to the West;

He smiles as though he said—“Thy will be done:”

His eyes, they see not those illuminings;

His ears, they hear not what the Blackbird sings.