To The Marquis Of Dufferin And Ava

A poem by Alfred Tennyson


At times our Britain cannot rest,
At times her steps are swift and rash;
She moving, at her girdle clash
The golden keys of East and West.


Not swift or rash, when late she lent
The sceptres of her West, her East,
To one, that ruling has increased
Her greatness and her self-content.


Your rule has made the people love
Their ruler. Your viceregal days
Have added fulness to the phrase
Of ‘Gauntlet in the velvet glove.’


But since your name will grow with Time,
Not all, as honouring your fair fame
Of Statesman, have I made the name
A golden portal to my rhyme:


But more, that you and yours may know
From me and mine, how dear a debt
We owed you, and are owing yet
To you and yours, and still would owe.


For he–your India was his Fate,
And drew him over sea to you–
He fain had ranged her thro’ and thro’,
To serve her myriads and the State,–


A soul that, watch’d from earliest youth,
And on thro’ many a brightening year,
Had never swerved for craft or fear,
By one side-path, from simple truth;


Who might have chased and claspt Renown
And caught her chaplet here–and there
In haunts of jungle-poison’d air
The flame of life went wavering down;


But ere he left your fatal shore,
And lay on that funereal boat,
Dying, ‘Unspeakable’ he wrote
‘Their kindness,’ and he wrote no more;


And sacred is the latest word;
And now the Was, the Might-have-been,
And those lone rites I have not seen,
And one dear sound I have not heard,


Are dreams that scarce will let me be,
Not there to bid my boy farewell,
When That within the coffin fell,
Fell–and flash’d into the Red Sea,


Beneath a hard Arabian moon
And alien stars. To question, why
The sons before the fathers die,
Not mine! and I may meet him soon;


But while my life’s late eve endures,
Nor settles into hueless gray,
My memories of his briefer day
Will mix with love for you and yours.

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