A poem by Alfred Tennyson

With farmer Allan at the farm abode
William and Dora. William was his son,
And she his niece. He often look’d at them,
And often thought, ‘I’ll make them man and wife.’
Now Dora felt her uncle’s will in all,
And yearn’d toward William; but the youth, because
He had been always with her in the house,
Thought not of Dora.
Then there came a day
When Allan call’d his son, and said, ‘My son
I married late, but I would wish to see
My grandchild on my knees before I die
And I have set my heart upon a match.
Now therefore look to Dora; she is well
To look to; thrifty too beyond her age.
She is my brother’s daughter: he and I
Had once hard words, and parted, and he died
In foreign lands; but for his sake I bred
His daughter Dora: take her for your wife;
For I have wish’d this marriage, night and day,
For many years.’ But William answer’d short;
‘I cannot marry Dora; by my life,
I will not marry Dora.’ Then the old man
Was wroth, and doubled up his hands, and said
‘You will not, boy! you dare to answer thus!
But in my time a father’s word was law,
And so it shall be now for me. Look to it;
Consider, William: take a month to think,
And let me have an answer to my wish;
Or, by the Lord that made me, you shall pack,
And never more darken my doors again.’
But William answer’d madly; bit his lips,
And broke away. The more he look’d at her
The less he liked her; and his ways were harsh;
But Dora bore them meekly. Then before
The month was out he left his father’s house,
And hired himself to work within the fields;
And half in love, half spite, he woo’d and wed
A labourer’s daughter, Mary Morrison.
Then, when the bells were ringing, Allan call’d
His niece and said: ‘My girl, I love you well;
But if you speak with him that was my son,
Or change a word with her he calls his wife,
My home is none of yours. My will is law.’
And Dora promised, being meek. She thought,
‘It cannot be: my uncle’s mind will change!’
And days went on, and there was born a boy
To William; then distresses came on him;
And day by day he pass’d his father’s gate,
Heart-broken, and his father help’d him not.
But Dora stored what little she could save.
And sent it them by stealth, nor did they know
Who sent it; till at last a fever seized
On William, and in harvest time he died.
Then Dora went to Mary. Mary sat
And look’d with tears upon her boy, and thought
Hard things of Dora. Dora came and said
‘I have obey’d my uncle until now,
And I have sinn’d, for it was all thro’ me
This evil came on William at the first.
But, Mary, for the sake of him that’s gone,
And for your sake, the woman that he chose,
And for this orphan, I am come to you
You know there has not been for these five years
So full a harvest: let me take the boy,
And I will set him in my uncle’s eye
Among the wheat; that when his heart is glad
Of the full harvest, he may see the boy,
And bless him for the sake of him that’s gone.’
And Dora took the child, and went her way
Across the wheat, and sat upon a mound
That was unsown, where many poppies grew.
Far off the farmer came into the field
And spied her not; for none of all his men
Dare tell him Dora waited with the child;
And Dora would have risen and gone to him,
But her heart fail’d her; and the reapers reap’d,
And the sun fell, and all the land was dark.
But when the morrow came, she rose and took
The child once more, and sat upon the mound;
And made a little wreath of all the flowers
That grew about, and tied it round his hat
To make him pleasing in her uncle’s eye.
Then when the farmer pass’d into the field
He spied her, and he left his men at work,
And came and said: ‘Where were you yesterday?
Whose child is that? What are you doing here?’
So Dora cast her eyes upon the ground,
And answer’d softly, ‘This is William’s child!’
‘And did I not,’ said Allan, ‘did I not
Forbid you, Dora?’ Dora said again
‘Do with me as you will, but take the child,
And bless him for the sake of him that’s gone!’
And Allan said, ‘I see it is a trick
Got up betwixt you and the woman there.
I must be taught my duty, and by you!
You knew my word was law, and yet you dared
To slight it. Well—for I will take the boy;
But go you hence, and never see me more.’
So saying, he took the boy that cried aloud
And struggled hard. The wreath of flowers fell
At Dora’s feet. She bow’d upon her hands,
And the boy’s cry came to her from the field,
More and more distant. She bow’d down her head,
Remembering the clay when first shecame,
And all the things that had been. She how’d down
And wept in secret; and the reapers reap’d,
And the sun fell, and all the land was dark.
Then Dora went to Mary’s house, and stood
Upon the threshold. Mary saw the boy
Was not with Dora. She broke out in praise
To God, that help’d her in her widowhood.
And Dora said, ‘My uncle took the boy
But, Mary, let me live and work with you
He says that he will never see me more.’
Then answer’d Mary, ‘This shall never be,
That thou shouldst take my trouble on thyself
And, now I think, he shall not have the boy,
For he will teach him hardness, and to slight
His mother; therefore thou and I will go,
And I will have my boy, and bring him home;
And I will beg of him to take thee back
But if he will not take thee back again,
Then thou and I will live within one house,
And work for William’s child, until he grows
Of age to help us.’
So the women kiss’d
Each other, and set out, and reach’d the farm.
The door was off the latch: they peep’d, and saw
The boy set up betwixt his grandsire’s knees,
Who thrust him in the hollows of his arm,
And clapt him on the hands and on the cheeks,
Like one that loved him: and the lad stretch’d out
And babbled for the golden seal, that hung
From Allan’s watch, and sparkled by the fire.
Then they came in: but when the boy beheld
His mother, he cried out to come to her
And Allan set him down, and Mary said
‘O Father!—if you let me call you so—
I never carne a-begging for myself,
Or William, or this child; but now I come
For Dora: take her hack; she loves you well.
O Sir, when William died, he died at peace
With all men; for I ask’d him, and he said,
He could not ever rue his marrying me—
I had been a patient wife: but, Sir, he said
That he was wrong to cross his father thus
“God bless him!” he said, “and may he never know
The troubles I have gone thro’!” Then he turn’d
His face and pass’d—unhappy that I am!
But now, Sir, let me have my boy, for you
Will make him hard, and he will learn to slight
His father’s memory; and take Dora back,
And let all this be as it was before.’
So Mary said, and Dora hid her face
By Mary. There was silence in the room;
And all at once the old man burst in sobs:—
I have been to blame—to blame. I have kill’d my son.
I have kill’d him—but I loved him—my dear son.
May God forgive me!—I have been to blame.
Kiss me, my children.’
Then they clung about
The old man’s neck, and kiss’d him many times.
And all the man was broken with remorse;
And all his love came back a hundred-fold;
And for three hours he sobb’d o’er Wiliam’s child
Thinking of William.
So those four abode
Within one house together; and as years
Went forward, Mary took another mate;
But Dora lived unmarried till her death.

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