Juvenilia

Isabel

Alfred Tennyson


I.
EYES not down-dropt nor over-bright, but fed
    With the clear-pointed flame of chastity,
    Clear, without heat, undying, tended by
        Pure vestal thoughts in the translucent fane
Of her still spirit; locks not wide-dispread,
Madonna-wise on either side her head;
    Sweet lips whereon perpetually did reign
    The summer calm of golden charity,
Were fixed shadows of thy fixed mood,
        Revered Isabel, the crown and head,
The stately flower of female fortitude,
        Of perfect wifehood and pure lowlihead.

II.
The intuitive decision of a bright
    And thorough-edged intellect to part
        Error from crime; a prudence to withhold;
        The laws of marriage character’d in gold
    Upon the blanched tablets of her heart;
A love still burning upward, giving light
To read those laws; an accent very low
In blandishment, but a most silver flow
        Of subtle-paced counsel in distress,
Right to the heart and brain, tho’ undescried,
        Winning its way with extreme gentleness
Thro’ all the outworks of suspicious pride;
A courage to endure and to obey;
A hate of gossip parlance, and of sway,
Crown’d Isabel, thro’ all her placid life,
The queen of marriage, a most perfect wife.

III.
The mellow’d reflex of a winter moon;
A clear stream flowing with a muddy one,
    Till in its onward current it absorbs
        With swifter movement and in purer light
        The vexed eddies of its wayward brother;
        A leaning and upbearing parasite,
        Clothing the stem, which else had fallen quite
    With cluster’d flower-bells and ambrosial orbs
        Of rich fruit-bunches leaning on each other—
        Shadow forth thee:—the world hath not another
(Tho’ all her fairest forms are types of thee,
And thou of God in thy great charity)
Of such a finish’d chasten’d purity.


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