Sunday, 4 January 2015

The Day-Dream by Alfred Lord Tennyson.

The Day-Dream is a poem from Alfred Lord Tennyson's 1842 collection Poems. It's also my first reading for the 'Deal Me In' Challenge.

It is a re-writing of his 1830 poem The Sleeping Beauty (from Poems, Chiefly Lyrical). In it, the narrator tells of his dream-vision that came to him as he day-dreamed whilst his companion, Flora, slept. It's a relatively short poem, about ten pages in my edition, and it's divided into nine parts:
1. Prologue
2. The Sleeping Palace
3. The Sleeping Beauty
4. The Arrival
5. The Revival
6. The Departure
7. Moral
8. L'Envoi
9. Epilogue
In one sense it's a fairy tale: as with the enchantment in the Sleeping Beauty myth, time stands still - "Here rests the sap within the leaf, / Here stays the blood along the veins", a state that lasts "Till all the hundred summers pass". The Sleeping Beauty is introduced,
The silk star-broider'd coverlid
Unto her limbs itself doth mould
Languidly ever; and, amid
Her full black ringlets downward roll'd
Glows forth each softly-shadow'd arm
With bracelets of the diamonds bright:
Her constant beauty doth inform
Stillness with love, and day with light.
The prince arrives, discovers her, and wakes her with a kiss - "A touch, a kiss! the charm was snapt." And with her, the whole palace is awoken.

Tennyson concludes by summing up the romance of it to Flora, his unimpressed listener -
Well - were it not a pleasant thing
To fall asleep with all one's friends;
To pass with all our social ties
To silence from the paths of men;
And every hundred years to rise
And learn the world, and sleep again;
To sleep thro’ terms of mighty wars,
And wake on science grown to more,
On secrets of the brain, the stars,
As wild as aught of fairy lore;
And all that else the years will show,
The Poet-forms of stronger hours,
The vast Republics that may grow,
The Federations and the Powers;
Titanic forces taking birth
In divers seasons, divers climes;
For we are Ancients of the earth,
And in the morning of the times.
This is a poem whose moral is that there may not be a discernible moral for the reader to find. It represents, I've read, a departure from the Romantics - beauty is not necessarily representative of anything other than itself: beauty is reduced simply to aesthetics, but it's themes and subject were favoured among the Romantic poems (The Day-Dream is similar to Endymion by John Keats, 1818). Perhaps, then, it may be seen as a bridge.

Whatever the case may be, this is a wonderful poem - a sleepy poem, very beautiful, very magical, and warmly familiar even on the first read. It's a good first review for the year, however short!

What is left but to share some illustrations. These are by William St. John Harper and were found in the 1894 edition published by Frederick A. Stokes &co

Next up in Deal Me In 2015 is Four of Spades: "I am Christina Rossetti" by Virginia Woolf.


  1. You know, the last quote reminds me of Virginia Woolf's Orlando which I'm in the process of reading and quite enjoying, BTW.

    I'm so glad that you're already enjoying this challenge. I just realized that not only am I going to be able to enjoy my own chosen poems, but I'm also going to be exposed to new poems that other bloggers have chosen. Fun!

    1. Yes, it is reminiscent of Orlando - I hadn't put the two together until you mentioned it!

      I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone else comes up with too - it might push me to read more poetry :)

  2. I have not read this poem (or any Tennyson, sad to say!), but now I want to. The illustrations are beautiful, too!

    1. I really love Tennyson, but I've not read tons. It'll be good to read more.

      I like the illustrations as well, but I wish they were in colour :)

  3. Wow.

    "To sleep thro’ terms of mighty wars,
    And wake on science grown to more,"

    Pretty sharp guy,that Tennyson. Great post - and thanks for sharing.

  4. "For we are Ancients of the earth,
    And in the morning of the times."

    This reminds me so much of the end of In Memoriam. There is a tension in the above lines between the ancient and the modern. Even though we live in the modern, in only a little while, the modern will be seen as ancient. Medicine and technology advances. New powers take hold. Social structures change. But sometimes we wish for wisdom from the past - from someone who lived even a hundred years before us.

    1. I must read In Memoriam, thank you for pointing out that link.

      Ah, I do love Tennyson!


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