To honor World Poetry Day, I have to write about Lord Tennyson's poem The Lotus Eaters. This poem has shaped much of my life in a wonderful way!
I first learned about the poem in one of the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The book listed part of the poem. I don't remember how old I was; maybe nine. The poem intrigued me, and after two visits to the bookstore (I would roam the bookstore for hours while I waited for my parents at the mall), I was able to find a book with the entire poem in it. I was still rather young, so I did not quite grasp the story at the time, but the book mentioned it was based on The Odyssey. So I found a copy of that. And I didn't understand a word.
But, I found books about The Odyssey that were easier to read, and some short adaptations to parts of Odysseus' adventures. And those books got me into Greek and Roman mythology. Which got me into fantasy. Which got me into Sci-fi. Which got me into some really good, thought-provoking reading.
But also, The Lotus Eaters provided me with a once in a lifetime opportunity! In my junior year in high school, I was taking SAT prep courses before school. The teacher was going over vocabulary and literature, and she mentioned Tennyson. She asked if any of us knew any Tennyson poems, so I mentioned The Lotus Eaters and quoted a verse. She was so impressed that I was familiar with that poem (you need to understand that many of the kids in my prep class were considered disadvantaged) that a few weeks later she suggested I write an essay for a chance to be part of an exchange group to Israel, and she would write me a letter of recommendation. I did, and I was selected to go to Israel for a month.
I love reading poetry. I'm not a very talented poet, and I would much rather read poems than write them. There is just something about reading the right prose at the right time from the right poet. Maybe if I were a decent poet I would be able to explain. But for now you will just have to take my word for it.
Anyway, enough about me. Here's the poem:
by Lord Alfred Tennyson
"Courage!" he said, and pointed toward the land,
"This mounting wave will roll us shoreward soon."
In the afternoon they came unto a land
In which it seemed always afternoon.
All round the coast the languid air did swoon,
Breathing like one that hath a weary dream.
Full-faced above the valley stood the moon;
And like a downward smoke, the slender stream
Along the cliff to fall and pause and fall did seem.
A land of streams! some, like a downward smoke,
Slow-dropping veils of thinnest lawn, did go;
And some thro' wavering lights and shadows broke,
Rolling a slumbrous sheet of foam below.
They saw the gleaming river seaward flow
From the inner land: far off, three mountain-tops,
Three silent pinnacles of aged snow,
Stood sunset-flush'd: and, dew'd with showery drops,
Up-clomb the shadowy pine above the woven copse.
The charmed sunset linger'd low adown
In the red West: thro' mountain clefts the dale
Was seen far inland, and the yellow down
Border'd with palm, and many a winding vale
And meadow, set with slender galingale;
A land where all things always seem'd the same!
And round about the keel with faces pale,
Dark faces pale against that rosy flame,
The mild-eyed melancholy Lotos-eaters came.
Branches they bore of that enchanted stem,
Laden with flower and fruit, whereof they gave
To each, but whoso did receive of them,
And taste, to him the gushing of the wave
Far far away did seem to mourn and rave
On alien shores; and if his fellow spake,
His voice was thin, as voices from the grave;
And deep-asleep he seem'd, yet all awake,
And music in his ears his beating heart did make.
They sat them down upon the yellow sand,
Between the sun and moon upon the shore;
And sweet it was to dream of Fatherland,
Of child, and wife, and slave; but evermore
Most weary seem'd the sea, weary the oar,
Weary the wandering fields of barren foam.
Then some one said, "We will return no more";
And all at once they sang, "Our island home
Is far beyond the wave; we will no longer roam."