Alfred Tennyson

The Dying Swan

Poem by Alfred Tennyson


The plain was grassy, wild and bare,
Wide, wild, and open to the air,
Which had built up everywhere
An under-roof of doleful gray. [1]
With an inner voice the river ran,
Adown it floated a dying swan,
And [2] loudly did lament.
It was the middle of the day.
Ever the weary wind went on,
And took the reed-tops as it went.


Some blue peaks in the distance rose,
And white against the cold-white sky,
Shone out their crowning snows.
One willow over the water [3] wept,
And shook the wave as the wind did sigh;
Above in the wind was [4] the swallow,
Chasing itself at its own wild will,
And far thro' [5] the marish green and still
The tangled water-courses slept,
Shot over with purple, and green, and yellow.


The wild swan's death-hymn took the soul
Of that waste place with joy
Hidden in sorrow: at first to the ear
The warble was low, and full and clear;
And floating about the under-sky,
Prevailing in weakness, the coronach [6] stole
Sometimes afar, and sometimes anear;
But anon her awful jubilant voice,
With a music strange and manifold,
Flow'd forth on a carol free and bold;
As when a mighty people rejoice
With shawms, and with cymbals, and harps of gold,
And the tumult of their acclaim is roll'd
Thro' [7] the open gates of the city afar,
To the shepherd who watcheth the evening star.
And the creeping mosses and clambering weeds,
And the willow-branches hoar and dank,
And the wavy swell of the soughing reeds,
And the wave-worn horns of the echoing bank,
And the silvery marish-flowers that throng
The desolate creeks and pools among,
Were flooded over with eddying song.

[Footnote 1: 1830. Grey.]

[Footnote 2: 1830 till 1848. Which.]

[Footnote 3: 1863. River.]

[Footnote 4: 1830. Sung.]

[Footnote 5: 1830. Through.]

[Footnote 6: A coronach is a funeral song or lamentation, from the Gaelic 'Corranach'. 'Cf'. Scott's 'Waverley', ch. xv.,

"Their wives and daughters came clapping their hands and 'crying the coronach' and shrieking".]

[Footnote 7: 1830 till 1851. Through.]