Real Poetry

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Alfred, Lord Tennyson – “In the Garden at Swainston”

This week’s poem comes from a collection of Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poetry my grandmother gave me to add to my collection of old books during my visit to New York.  The book itself I have only glanced through, but one poem in particular stood out from the other’s I’ve read.  The short, three stanza poem contains some very powerful images and I’ve returned to the poem several times during my stay.

Tennyson's Poems, Alta Edition

The poem conveys a strong sense of loss from someone truly meaningful to the speaker of the poem.  What stands out to me though, is that this is not a poem about the one person this speaker loved but rather the three people he has loved separately but in some way equally.  The only defining difference is that the person lamented in this poem is the “last of the three.”

In the Garden at Swainston

Nightingales warbled without,
Within was weeping for thee;
Shadows of three dead men
Walk’d in the walks with me,
Shadows of three dead men, and thou wast one of the three.

Nightingales sang in the woods;
The Master was far away;
Nightingales warbled and sang
Of a passion that lasts but a day;
Still in the house in his coffin the Prince of courtesy lay.

Two dead men have I known
In courtesy like to thee:
Two dead men have I loved
With a love that ever will be:
Three dead men have I loved, and thou art last of the three.

-Alfred, Lord Tennyson

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