The Grandmother

By Alfred, Lord Tennyson

I.
And Willy, my eldest-born, is gone, you say, little
Anne?
Ruddy and white, and strong on his legs, he looks like
a man.
And Willy’s wife has written: she never was over-
wise,
Never the wife for Willy: he would n’t take my
advice.

II.
For, Annie, you see, her father was not the man to
save,
Had n’t a head to manage, and drank himself into his
grave.
Pretty enough, very pretty! but I was against it for
one.
Eh!–but he would n’t hear me–and Willy, you say,
is gone.

III.
Willy, my beauty, my eldest-born, the flower of the
flock;
Never a man could fling him: for Willy stood like a
rock.
`Here’s a leg for a babe of a week!’ says doctor; and
he would be bound,
There was not his like that year in twenty parishes
round.

IV.
Strong of his hands, and strong on his legs, but still of
his tongue!
I ought to have gone before him: I wonder he went
so young.
I cannot cry for him, Annie: I have not long to
stay;
Perhaps I shall see him the sooner, for he lived far
away.

V.
Why do you look at me, Annie? you think I am hard
and cold;
But all my children have gone before me, I am so
old:
I cannot weep for Willy, nor can I weep for the
rest;
Only at your age, Annie, I could have wept with the
best.

VI.
For I remember a quarrel I had with your father, my
dear,
All for a slanderous story, that cost me many a
tear.
I mean your grandfather, Annie: it cost me a world
of woe,
Seventy years ago, my darling, seventy years
ago.

VII.
For Jenny, my cousin, had come to the place, and I
knew right well
That Jenny had tript in her time: I knew, but I
would not tell.
And she to be coming and slandering me, the base
little liar!
But the tongue is a fire as you know, my dear, the
tongue is a fire.

VIII.
And the parson made it his text that week, and he
said likewise,
That a lie which is half a truth is ever the blackest of
lies,
That a lie which is all a lie may be met and fought
with outright,
But a lie which is part a truth is a harder matter to
fight.

IX.
And Willy had not been down to the farm for a week
and a day;
And all things look’d half-dead, tho’ it was the middle
of May.
Jenny, to slander me, who knew what Jenny had
been!
But soiling another, Annie, will never make oneself
clean.

X.
And I cried myself well-nigh blind, and all of an
evening late
I climb’d to the top of the garth, and stood by the
road at the gate.
The moon like a rick on fire was rising over the
dale,
And whit, whit, whit, in the bush beside me chirrupt
the nightingale.

XI.
All of a sudden he stopt: there past by the gate of
the farm,
Willy,–he did n’t see me,–and Jenny hung on his
arm.
Out into the road I started, and spoke I scarce knew
how;
Ah, there’s no fool like the old one–it makes me
angry now.

XII.
Willy stood up like a man, and look’d the thing that
he meant;
Jenny, the viper, made me a mocking courtesy and
went.
And I said, `Let us part: in a hundred years it’ll all
be the same,
You cannot love me at all, if you love not my good
name.’

XIII.
And he turn’d, and I saw his eyes all wet, in the sweet
moonshine:
Sweetheart, I love you so well that your good name
is mine.
And what do I care for Jane, let her speak of you well
of ill;
But marry me out of hand: we two shall be happy
still.’

XIV.
`Marry you, Willy!’ said I, `but I needs must speak
my mind,
And I fear you’ll listen to tales, be jealous and hard
and unkind.’
But he turn’d and claspt me in his arms, and answer’d,
`No, love, no;’
Seventy years ago, my darling, seventy years
ago.

XV.
So Willy and I were wedded: I wore a lilac
gown;
And the ringers rang with a will, and he gave the
ringers a crown.
But the first that ever I bare was dead before he was
born,
Shadow and shine is life, little Annie, flower and
thorn.

XVI.
That was the first time, too, that ever I thought of
death.
There lay the sweet little body that never had drawn
a breath.
I had not wept, little Anne, not since I had been a
wife;
But I wept like a child that day, for the babe had
fought for his life.

XVII.
His dear little face was troubled, as if with anger or
pain:
I look’d at the still little body–his trouble had all
been in vain.
For Willy I cannot weep, I shall see him another
morn:
But I wept like a child for the child that was dead
before he was born.

XVIII.
But he cheer’d me, my good man, for he seldom said me
nay:
Kind, like a man, was he; like a man, too, would have
his way:
Never jealous–not he: we had many a happy
year;
And he died, and I could not weep–my own time
seem’d so near.

XIX.
But I wish’d it had been God’s will that I, too, then
could have died:
I began to be tired a little, and fain had slept at his
side.
And that was ten years back, or more, if I don’t
forget:
But as to the children, Annie, they’re all about me
yet.

XX.
Pattering over the boards, my Annie who left me at
two,
Patter she goes, my own little Annie, an Annie like
you:
Pattering over the boards, she comes and goes at her
will,
While Harry is in the five-acre and Charlie ploughing
the hill.

XXI.
And Harry and Charlie, I hear them too–they sing
to their team:
Often they come to the door in a pleasant kind of a
dream.
They come and sit by my chair, they hover about my
bed–
I am not always certain if they be alive or
dead.

XXII.
And yet I know for a truth, there’s none of them
left alive;
For Harry went at sixty, your father at sixty-
five:
And Willy, my eldest born, at nigh threescore and
ten;
I knew them all as babies, and now they’re elderly
men.

XXIII.
For mine is a time of peace, it is not often I
grieve;
I am oftener sitting at home in my father’s farm
at eve:
And the neighbors come and laugh and gossip, and
so do I;
I find myself often laughing at things that have long
gone by.

XXIV.
To be sure the preacher says, our sins should make
us sad:
But mine is a time of peace, and there is Grace to
be had;
And God, not man, is the Judge of us all when life
shall cease;
And in this Book, little Annie, the message is one of
Peace.

XXV.
And age is a time of peace, so it be free from
pain,
And happy has been my life; but I would not live
it again.
I seem to be tired a little, that’s all, and long for
rest;
Only at your age, Annie, I could have wept with the
best.

XXVI.
So Willy has gone, my beauty, my eldest-born, my
flower;
But how can I weep for Willy, he has but gone for
an hour,–
Gone for a minute, my son, from this room into the
next;
I, too, shall go in a minute. What time have I to
be vext?

XXVII.
And Willy’s wife has written, she never was over-
wise.
Get me my glasses, Annie: thank God that I keep
my eyes.
There is but a trifle left you, when I shall have past
away.
But stay with the old woman now: you cannot have
long to stay.

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