Friday 22 March 2013


Nigel Swift, in his poetic researches, has discovered an unpublished version of the poem from Tennyson’s In Memoriam that begins:

“Old Yew, which graspest at the stones
That name the under-lying dead ...”

and ends:

“I seem to fail from out my blood
And grow incorporate into thee.”

Nigel thinks that, while this earlier version may lack some of the beauties of the published one, it certainly makes its point more clearly. 
Old Yew, which grasps at the cold stones
That  name the under-lying dead,
What thoughts revolve in your dull head?
Why do you mutter in such tones?

The seasons slowly swing around
And bring the snow and bloom and fruit,
But like a gentleman in a suit
You stand there staring at the ground.

And in your shade, from morn till eve, 
I stand here writing reams of verse;
My voice it rumbles like a hearse;
It is a place I rarely leave.

Month after month, without hope or view,
I stand beside this grave and mourn.
The truth approaches, like the dawn:
O tree!  I’m turning into you.

(Nigel Swift’s note:  Corrections on the manuscript show that Tennyson was in some doubt as how to spell the last word of this poem.  This may have been what led him to abandon this otherwise irreproachable version.)

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