The Flight


Are you sleeping? have you forgotten? do not sleep, my sister dear!
How can you sleep? the morning brings the day I hate and fear;
The cock has crow’d already once, he crows before his time;
Awake! the creeping glimmer steals, the hills are white with rime.

Ah, clasp me in your arms, sister, ah, fold me to your breast!
Ah, let me weep my fill once more, and cry myself to rest!
To rest? to rest and wake no more were better rest for me,
Than to waken every morning to that face I loathe to see:

I envied your sweet slumber, all night so calm you lay,
The night was calm, the morn is calm, and like another day;
But I could wish yon moaning sea would rise and burst the shore,
And such a whirlwind blow these woods, as never blew before.

For, one by one, the stars went down across the gleaming pane,
And project after project rose, and all of them were vain;
The blackthorn-blossom fades and falls and leaves the bitter sloe,
The hope I catch at vanishes and youth is turn’d to woe.

Come, speak a little comfort! all night I pray’d with tears,
And yet no comfort came to me, and now the morn appears,
When he will tear me from your side, who bought me for his slave:
This father pays his debt with me, and weds me to my grave.

What father, this or mine, was he, who, on that summer day
When I had fall’n from off the crag we clamber’d up in play,
Found, fear’d me dead, and groan’d, and took and kiss’d me, and again
He kiss’d me; and I loved him then; he was my father then.

No father now, the tyrant vassal of a tyrant vice!
The Godless Jephtha vows his child . . . to one cast of the dice.
These ancient woods, this Hall at last will go—perhaps have gone,
Except his own meek daughter yield her life, heart, soul to one—

To one who knows I scorn him. O the formal mocking bow,
The cruel smile, the courtly phrase that masks his malice now—
But often in the sidelong eyes a gleam of all things ill—
It is not Love but Hate that weds a bride against her will;

Hate, that would pluck from this true breast the locket that I wear,
The precious crystal into which I braided Edwin’s hair!
The love that keeps this heart alive beats on it night and day—
One golden curl, his golden gift, before he past away.

He left us weeping in the woods; his boat was on the sand;
How slowly down the rocks he went, how loth to quit the land!
And all my life was darken’d, as I saw the white sail run,
And darken, up that lane of light into the setting sun.

How often have we watch’d the sun fade from us thro’ the West,
And follow Edwin to those isles, those islands of the Blest!
Is he not there? would I were there, the friend, the bride, the wife,
With him, where summer never dies, with Love, the Sun of life!

O would I were in Edwin’s arms—once more—to feel his breath
Upon my cheek—on Edwin’s ship, with Edwin, ev’n in death,
Tho’ all about the shuddering wreck the death-white sea should rave,
Or if lip were laid to lip on the pillows of the wave.

Shall I take him? I kneel with him? I swear and swear forsworn
To love him most, whom most I loathe, to honour whom I scorn?
The Fiend would yell, the grave would yawn, my mother’s ghost would rise—
To lie, to lie—in God’s own house—the blackest of all lies!

Why—rather than that hand in mine, tho’ every pulse would freeze,
I’d sooner fold an icy corpse dead of some foul disease:
Wed him? I will not wed him, let them spurn me from the doors,
And I will wander till I die about the barren moors.

The dear, mad bride who stabb’d her bridegroom on her bridal night—
If mad, then I am mad, but sane, if she were in the right.
My father’s madness makes me mad—but words are only words!
I am not mad, not yet, not quite—There! listen how the birds

Begin to warble yonder in the budding orchard trees!
The lark has past from earth to Heaven upon the morning breeze!
How gladly, were I one of those, how early would I wake!
And yet the sorrow that I bear is sorrow for his sake.

They love their mates, to whom they sing; or else their songs, that meet
The morning with such music, would never be so sweet!
And tho’ these fathers will not hear, the blessed Heavens are just,
And Love is fire, and burns the feet would trample it to dust.

A door was open’d in the house—who? who? my father sleeps!
A stealthy foot upon the stair! he—some one—this way creeps!
If he? yes, he . . . lurks, listens, fears his victim may have fled—
He! where is some sharp-pointed thing? he comes, and finds me dead.

Not he, not yet! and time to act—but how my temples burn!
And idle fancies flutter me, I know not where to turn;
Speak to me, sister; counsel me; this marriage must not be.
You only know the love that makes the world a world to me!

Our gentle mother, had she lived—but we were left alone:
That other left us to ourselves; he cared not for his own;
So all the summer long we roam’d in these wild woods of ours,
My Edwin loved to call us then ‘His two wild woodland flowers.’

Wild flowers blowing side by side in God’s free light and air,
Wild flowers of the secret woods, when Edwin found us there,
Wild woods in which we roved with him, and heard his passionate vow,
Wild woods in which we rove no more, if we be parted now!

You will not leave me thus in grief to wander forth forlorn;
We never changed a bitter word, not once since we were born;
Our dying mother join’d our hands; she knew this father well;
She bid its love, like souls in Heaven, and now I fly from Hell,

And you with me; and we shall light upon some lonely shore,
Some lodge within the waste sea-dunes, and hear the waters roar,
And see the ships from out the West go dipping thro’ the foam,
And sunshine on that sail at last which brings our Edwin home.

But look, the morning grows apace, and lights the old church-tower,
And lights the clock! the hand points five—O me—it strikes the hour—
I bide no more, I meet my fate, whatever ills betide!
Arise, my own true sister, come forth! the world is wide.

And yet my heart is ill at ease, my eyes are thin with dew,
I seem to see a new-dug grave up yonder by the yew!
If we should never more return, but wander hand in hand
With breaking hearts. without a friend, and in a distant land.

O sweet, they tell me that the world is hard, and harsh of mind,
But can it be so hard, so harsh, as those that should be kind?
That matters not: let come what will; at last the end is sure,
And every heart that loves with truth is equal to endure.


facebook share button twitter share button google plus share button tumblr share button reddit share button email share button share on pinterest pinterest

Create a library and add your favorite stories. Get started by clicking the "Add" button.
Add The Flight to your own personal library.

Return to the Alfred Lord Tennyson Home Page, or . . . Read the next poem; The Flower

Anton Chekhov
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Susan Glaspell
Mark Twain
Edgar Allan Poe
Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
Herman Melville
Stephen Leacock
Kate Chopin
Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson