Tennyson captures my heart

While reading a passage from the poem Idylls of the King: The passing of Arthur, I was overcome with emotion by the depth and universality of the message. As a Baha’i, I see myself beset with the agony and distress that accompanies the passing of time. However, I also recognize the violent chaos that marks the paving of a new world order as the old is razed to the ground, and those with insight bare witness to the degeneration and disintegration of humanity, which is altogether, overwhelming.

Tennyson captures this process as the last Knight of the round table, Sir Bedivere, laments the loss of his king. Overcome by a fear of isolation, he is left companionless, a noble Knight of the past among “strange faces” and “new minds” (406). If you’ve enjoyed the passage below as much as I have, take a look at this link for the whole poem. Enjoy!

Then loudly cried the bold Sir Bedivere:
“Ah! my Lord Arthur, whither shall I go?
Where shall I hide my forehead and my eyes?
For now I see the true old times are dead,
When every morning brought a noble chance,
And every chance brought out a noble knight.
Such times have been not since the light that led
The holy Elders with the gift of myrrh.
But now the whole Round Table is dissolved
Which was an image of the mighty world,
And I, the last, go forth companionless,
And the days darken round me, and the years,
Among new men, strange faces, other minds.”

And slowly answered Arthur from the barge:
“The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
And God fulfils himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.
Comfort thyself: what comfort is in me?
I have lived my life, and that which I have done
May He within himself make pure! but thou,
If thou shouldst never see my face again,
Pray for my soul. More things are wrought by prayer
Than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice
Rise like a fountain for me night and day.
For what are men better than sheep or goats
That nourish a blind life within the brain,
If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer
Both for themselves and those who call them friend?
For so the whole round earth is every way
Bound by gold chains about the feet of God.
But now farewell. I am going a long way
With these thou seëst–if indeed I go
(For all my mind is clouded with a doubt)–
To the island-valley of Avilion;
Where falls not hail, or rain, or any snow,
Nor ever wind blows loudly; but it lies
Deep-meadowed, happy, fair with orchard lawns
And bowery hollows crowned with summer sea,
Where I will heal me of my grievous wound.”

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One thought on “Tennyson captures my heart

  1. Before I ever read this poem in high school, my father shared a quote from this poem when I was very young that always stuck with me:

    “If thou shouldst never see my face again,
    Pray for my soul. More things are wrought by prayer
    Than this world dreams of.”

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