First published in 1833, but altered so extensively on its republication in 1842 as to be practically rewritten. The alterations in it after 1842 were not numerous, consisting chiefly in the deletion of two stanzas after line 192 and the insertion of the three stanzas which follow in the present text, together with other minor verbal corrections, all of which have been noted. No alterations were made in the text after 1853.
The allegory Tennyson explains in the dedicatory verses, but the framework of the poem was evidently suggested by 'Ecclesiastes' ii. 1-17. The position of the hero is precisely that of Solomon. Both began by assuming that man is self-sufficing and the world sufficient; the verdict of the one in consequence being "vanity of vanities, all is vanity," of the other what the poet here records. An admirable commentary on the poem is afforded by Matthew Arnold's picture of the Romans before Christ taught the secret of the only real happiness possible to man. See 'Obermann Once More'. The teaching of the poem has been admirably explained by Spedding. It "represents allegorically the condition of a mind which, in the love of beauty and the triumphant consciousness of knowledge and intellectual supremacy, in the intense enjoyment of its own power and glory, has lost sight of its relation to man and God". See 'Tennyson's Life', vol. i., p. 226.
I built my soul a lordly pleasure-house Wherein at ease for aye to dwell. I said, "O Soul, make merry and carouse, Dear soul, for all is well".
A huge crag-platform, smooth as burnish'd brass, I chose. The ranged ramparts bright From level meadow-bases of deep grass  Suddenly scaled the light.
Thereon I built it firm. Of ledge or shelf The rock rose clear, or winding stair. My soul would live alone unto herself In her high palace there.
And "while the world  runs round and round," I said, "Reign thou apart, a quiet king, Still as, while Saturn  whirls, his stedfast  shade Sleeps on his luminous  ring."
To which my soul made answer readily: "Trust me, in bliss I shall abide In this great mansion, that is built for me, So royal-rich and wide"
* * * * * *
Four courts I made, East, West and South and North, In each a squared lawn, wherefrom The golden gorge of dragons spouted forth A flood of fountain-foam. 
And round the cool green courts there ran a row Of cloisters, branch'd like mighty woods, Echoing all night to that sonorous flow Of spouted fountain-floods. 
And round the roofs a gilded gallery That lent broad verge to distant lands, Far as the wild swan wings, to where the sky Dipt down to sea and sands. 
From those four jets four currents in one swell Across the mountain stream'd below In misty folds, that floating as they fell Lit up a torrent-bow. 
And high on every peak a statue seem'd To hang on tiptoe, tossing up A cloud of incense of all odour steam'd From out a golden cup. 
So that she thought, "And who shall gaze upon My palace with unblinded eyes, While this great bow will waver in the sun, And that sweet incense rise?" 
For that sweet incense rose and never fail'd, And, while day sank or mounted higher, The light aerial gallery, golden-rail'd, Burnt like a fringe of fire. 
Likewise the deep-set windows, stain'd and traced, Would seem slow-flaming crimson fires From shadow'd grots of arches interlaced, And tipt with frost-like spires. 
* * * * * *
Full of long-sounding corridors it was, That over-vaulted grateful gloom,  Thro' which the livelong day my soul did pass, Well-pleased, from room to room.
Full of great rooms and small the palace stood, All various, each a perfect whole From living Nature, fit for every mood  And change of my still soul.
For some were hung with arras green and blue, Showing a gaudy summer-morn, Where with puff'd cheek the belted hunter blew His wreathed bugle-horn. 
One seem'd all dark and red--a tract of sand, And some one pacing there alone, Who paced for ever in a glimmering land, Lit with a low large moon. 
One show'd an iron coast and angry waves. You seem'd to hear them climb and fall And roar rock-thwarted under bellowing caves, Beneath the windy wall. 
And one, a full-fed river winding slow By herds upon an endless plain, The ragged rims of thunder brooding low, With shadow-streaks of rain. 
And one, the reapers at their sultry toil. In front they bound the sheaves. Behind Were realms of upland, prodigal in oil, And hoary to the wind. 
And one, a foreground black with stones and slags, Beyond, a line of heights, and higher All barr'd with long white cloud the scornful crags, And highest, snow and fire. 
And one, an English home--gray twilight pour'd On dewy pastures, dewy trees, Softer than sleep--all things in order stored, A haunt of ancient Peace. 
Nor these alone, but every landscape fair, As fit for every mood of mind, Or gay, or grave, or sweet, or stern, was there, Not less than truth design'd. 
* * * * * *
Or the maid-mother by a crucifix, In tracts of pasture sunny-warm, Beneath branch-work of costly sardonyx Sat smiling, babe in arm. 
Or in a clear-wall'd city on the sea, Near gilded organ-pipes, her hair Wound with white roses, slept St. Cecily; An angel look'd at her.
Or thronging all one porch of Paradise, A group of Houris bow'd to see The dying Islamite, with hands and eyes That said, We wait for thee. 
Or mythic Uther's deeply-wounded son In some fair space of sloping greens Lay, dozing in the vale of Avalon, And watch'd by weeping queens. 
Or hollowing one hand against his ear, To list a foot-fall, ere he saw The wood-nymph, stay'd the Ausonian king to hear Of wisdom and of law. 
Or over hills with peaky tops engrail'd, And many a tract of palm and rice, The throne of Indian Cama  slowly sail'd A summer fann'd with spice.
Or sweet Europa's  mantle blew unclasp'd, From off her shoulder backward borne: From one hand droop'd a crocus: one hand grasp'd The mild bull's golden horn. 
Or else flush'd Ganymede, his rosy thigh Half-buried in the Eagle's down, Sole as a flying star shot thro' the sky Above  the pillar'd town.
Nor  these alone: but every  legend fair Which the supreme Caucasian mind  Carved out of Nature for itself, was there, Not less than life, design'd. 
* * * * * *
Then in the towers I placed great bells that swung, Moved of themselves, with silver sound; And with choice paintings of wise men I hung The royal dais round.
For there was Milton like a seraph strong, Beside him Shakespeare bland and mild; And there the world-worn Dante grasp'd his song, And somewhat grimly smiled. 
And there the Ionian father of the rest;  A million wrinkles carved his skin; A hundred winters snow'd upon his breast, From cheek and throat and chin. 
Above, the fair hall-ceiling stately set Many an arch high up did lift, And angels rising and descending met With interchange of gift. 
Below was all mosaic choicely plann'd With cycles of the human tale Of this wide world, the times of every land So wrought, they will not fail. 
The people here, a beast of burden slow, Toil'd onward, prick'd with goads and stings; Here play'd, a tiger, rolling to and fro The heads and crowns of kings; 
Here rose, an athlete, strong to break or bind All force in bonds that might endure, And here once more like some sick man declined, And trusted any cure. 
But over these she trod: and those great bells Began to chime. She took her throne: She sat betwixt the shining Oriels, To sing her songs alone. 
And thro' the topmost Oriels' colour'd flame Two godlike faces gazed below; Plato the wise, and large-brow'd Verulam, The first of those who know. 
And all those names, that in their motion were Full-welling fountain-heads of change, Betwixt the slender shafts were blazon'd fair In diverse raiment strange: 
Thro' which the lights, rose, amber, emerald, blue, Flush'd in her temples and her eyes, And from her lips, as morn from Memnon,  drew Rivers of melodies.
No nightingale delighteth to prolong Her low preamble all alone, More than my soul to hear her echo'd song Throb thro' the ribbed stone;
Singing and murmuring in her feastful mirth, Joying to feel herself alive, Lord over Nature, Lord of  the visible earth, Lord of the senses five;
Communing with herself: "All these are mine, And let the world have peace or wars, Tis one to me". She--when young night divine Crown'd dying day with stars,
Making sweet close of his delicious toils-- Lit light in wreaths and anadems, And pure quintessences of precious oils In hollow'd moons of gems,
To mimic heaven; and clapt her hands and cried, "I marvel if my still delight In this great house so royal-rich, and wide, Be flatter'd to the height. 
"O all things fair to sate my various eyes! O shapes and hues that please me well! O silent faces of the Great and Wise, My Gods, with whom I dwell! 
"O God-like isolation which art mine, I can but count thee perfect gain, What time I watch the darkening droves of swine That range on yonder plain. 
"In filthy sloughs they roll a prurient skin, They graze and wallow, breed and sleep; And oft some brainless devil enters in, And drives them to the deep." 
Then of the moral instinct would she prate, And of the rising from the dead, As hers by right of full-accomplish'd Fate; And at the last she said:
"I take possession of man's mind and deed. I care not what the sects may brawl, I sit as God holding no form of creed, But contemplating all." 
* * * * * *
Full oft  the riddle of the painful earth Flash'd thro' her as she sat alone, Yet not the less held she her solemn mirth, And intellectual throne.
And so she throve and prosper'd: so three years She prosper'd: on the fourth she fell,  Like Herod,  when the shout was in his ears, Struck thro' with pangs of hell.
Lest she should fail and perish utterly, God, before whom ever lie bare The abysmal deeps of Personality,  Plagued her with sore despair.
When she would think, where'er she turn'd her sight, The airy hand confusion wrought, Wrote "Mene, mene," and divided quite The kingdom of her thought. 
Deep dread and loathing of her solitude Fell on her, from which mood was born Scorn of herself; again, from out that mood Laughter at her self-scorn. 
"What! is not this my place of strength," she said, "My spacious mansion built for me, Whereof the strong foundation-stones were laid Since my first memory?"
But in dark corners of her palace stood Uncertain shapes; and unawares On white-eyed phantasms weeping tears of blood, And horrible nightmares,
And hollow shades enclosing hearts of flame, And, with dim fretted foreheads all, On corpses three-months-old at noon she came, That stood against the wall.
A spot of dull stagnation, without light Or power of movement, seem'd my soul, 'Mid onward-sloping  motions infinite Making for one sure goal.
A still salt pool, lock'd in with bars of sand; Left on the shore; that hears all night The plunging seas draw backward from the land Their moon-led waters white.
A star that with the choral starry dance Join'd not, but stood, and standing saw The hollow orb of moving Circumstance Roll'd round by one fix'd law.
Back on herself her serpent pride had curl'd. "No voice," she shriek'd in that lone hall, "No voice breaks thro' the stillness of this world: One deep, deep silence all!"
She, mouldering with the dull earth's mouldering sod, Inwrapt tenfold in slothful shame, Lay there exiled from eternal God, Lost to her place and name;
And death and life she hated equally, And nothing saw, for her despair, But dreadful time, dreadful eternity, No comfort anywhere;
Remaining utterly confused with fears, And ever worse with growing time, And ever unrelieved by dismal tears, And all alone in crime:
Shut up as in a crumbling tomb, girt round With blackness as a solid wall, Far off she seem'd to hear the dully sound Of human footsteps fall.
As in strange lands a traveller walking slow, In doubt and great perplexity, A little before moon-rise hears the low Moan of an unknown sea;
And knows not if it be thunder or a sound Of rocks  thrown down, or one deep cry Of great wild beasts; then thinketh, "I have found A new land, but I die".
She howl'd aloud, "I am on fire within. There comes no murmur of reply. What is it that will take away my sin, And save me lest I die?"
So when four years were wholly finished, She threw her royal robes away. "Make me a cottage in the vale," she said, "Where I may mourn and pray. 
"Yet pull not down my palace towers, that are So lightly, beautifully built: Perchance I may return with others there When I have purged my guilt." 
[Footnote 1: 1833.
I chose, whose ranged ramparts bright From great broad meadow bases of deep grass.]
[Footnote 2: 1833. "While the great world."]
[Footnote 3: "The shadow of Saturn thrown upon the bright ring that surrounds the planet appears motionless, though the body of the planet revolves. Saturn rotates on its axis in the short period of ten and a half hours, but the shadow of this swiftly whirling mass shows no more motion than is seen in the shadow of a top spinning so rapidly that it seems to be standing still." Rowe and Webb's note, which I gladly borrow.]
[Footnote 4: 1833 and 1842. Steadfast.]
[Footnote 5: After this stanza in 1833 this, deleted in 1842:--
"And richly feast within thy palace hall, Like to the dainty bird that sups, Lodged in the lustrous crown-imperial, Draining the honey cups."]
[Footnote 6: In 1833 these eight stanzas were inserted after the stanza beginning, "I take possession of men's minds and deeds"; in 1842 they were transferred, greatly altered, to their present position. For the alterations on them see 'infra.']
[Footnote 7: 1833.
Gloom, Roofed with thick plates of green and orange glass Ending in stately rooms.]
[Footnote 8: 1833.
All various, all beautiful, Looking all ways, fitted to every mood.]
[Footnote 9: Here in 1833 was inserted the stanza, "One showed an English home," afterwards transferred to its present position 85-88.]
[Footnote 10: 1833.
Some were all dark and red, a glimmering land Lit with a low round moon, Among brown rocks a man upon the sand Went weeping all alone.]
[Footnote 11: These three stanzas were added in 1842.]
[Footnote 12: Thus in 1833:--
One seemed a foreground black with stones and slags, Below sun-smitten icy spires Rose striped with long white cloud the scornful crags, Deep trenched with thunder fires.]
[Footnote 13: Not inserted here in 1833, but the following in its place:--
Some showed far-off thick woods mounted with towers, Nearer, a flood of mild sunshine Poured on long walks and lawns and beds and bowers Trellised with bunchy vine.]
[Footnote 14: Inserted in 1842.]
[Footnote 15: Thus in 1833, followed by the note:--
Or the maid-mother by a crucifix, In yellow pastures sunny-warm, Beneath branch-work of costly sardonyx, Sat smiling, babe in arm.
When I first conceived the plan of the Palace of Art, I intended to have introduced both sculptures and paintings into it; but it is the most difficult of all things to 'devise' a statue in verse. Judge whether I have succeeded in the statues of Elijah and Olympias.
One was the Tishbite whom the raven fed, As when he stood on Carmel steeps, With one arm stretched out bare, and mocked and said, "Come cry aloud-he sleeps".
Tall, eager, lean and strong, his cloak wind-borne Behind, his forehead heavenly bright From the clear marble pouring glorious scorn, Lit as with inner light.
One, was Olympias: the floating snake Rolled round her ancles, round her waist Knotted, and folded once about her neck, Her perfect lips to taste.
Round by the shoulder moved: she seeming blythe Declined her head: on every side The dragon's curves melted and mingled with The woman's youthful pride Of rounded limbs.
Or Venus in a snowy shell alone, Deep-shadowed in the glassy brine, Moonlike glowed double on the blue, and shone A naked shape divine.]
[Footnote 16: Inserted in 1842.]
[Footnote 17: Thus in 1833:--
Or that deep-wounded child of Pendragon Mid misty woods on sloping greens Dozed in the valley of Avilion, Tended by crowned queens.
The present reading is that of 1842. The reference is, of course, to King Arthur, the supposed son of Uther Pendragon.
In 1833 the following stanza, excised in 1842, followed:--
Or blue-eyed Kriemhilt from a craggy hold, Athwart the light-green rows of vine, Poured blazing hoards of Nibelungen gold, Down to the gulfy Rhine.]
[Footnote 18: Inserted in 1842 thus:--
Or hollowing one hand against his ear, To listen for a footfall, ere he saw The wood-nymph, stay'd the Tuscan king to hear Of wisdom and of law.
List a footfall, 1843. Ausonian for Tuscan, 1850. The reference is to Egeria and Numa Pompilius. 'Cf.' Juvenal, iii., 11-18:--
Hic ubi nocturnæ Numa constituebat amicæ ... In vallem Ægeriae descendimus et speluneas Dissimiles veris.
and the beautiful passage in Byron's 'Childe Harold', iv., st. cxv.-cxix.]
[Footnote 19: This is Camadev or Camadeo, the Cupid or God of Love of the Hindu mythology.]
[Footnote 20: This picture of Europa seems to have been suggested by Moschus, 'Idyll', ii., 121-5:--
[Greek: Hae d' ar ephezomenae Zaenos Boeois epi n_otois tae men echen taurou dolichon keras, en cheri d' allae eirue porphyreas kolpou ptuchas.]
"Then, seated on the back of the divine bull, with one hand did she grasp the bull's long horn and with the other she was catching up the purple folds of her garment, and the robe on her shoulders was swelled out."
See, too, the beautiful picture of the same scene in Achilles Tatius, 'Clitophon and Leucippe', lib. i., 'ad init.;' and in Politian's finely picturesque poem.]
[Footnote 21: In 1833 thus:--
Europa's scarf blew in an arch, unclasped, From her bare shoulder backward borne.
Off inserted in 1842. Here in 1833 follows a stanza, excised in 1842:--
He thro' the streaming crystal swam, and rolled Ambrosial breaths that seemed to float In light-wreathed curls. She from the ripple cold Updrew her sandalled foot.]
[Footnote 22: 1833. Over.]
[Footnote 23: 1833. Not.]
[Footnote 24: 1833. Many a.]
[Footnote 25: The Caucasian range forms the north-west margin of the great tableland of Western Asia, and as it was the home of those races who afterwards peopled Europe and Western Asia and so became the fathers of civilisation and culture, the "Supreme Caucasian mind" is a historically correct but certainly recondite expression for the intellectual flower of the human race, for the perfection of human ability.]
[Footnote 26: 1833. Broidered in screen and blind.
In the edition of 1833 appear the following stanzas, excised in 1842:--
So that my soul beholding in her pride All these, from room to room did pass; And all things that she saw, she multiplied, A many-faced glass.
And, being both the sower and the seed, Remaining in herself became All that she saw, Madonna, Ganymede, Or the Asiatic dame--
Still changing, as a lighthouse in the night Changeth athwart the gleaming main, From red to yellow, yellow to pale white, Then back to red again.
"From change to change four times within the womb The brain is moulded," she began, "So thro' all phases of all thought I come Into the perfect man.
"All nature widens upward: evermore The simpler essence lower lies, More complex is more perfect, owning more Discourse, more widely wise.
"I take possession of men's minds and deeds. I live in all things great and small. I dwell apart, holding no forms of creeds, But contemplating all."
Four ample courts there were, East, West, South, North, In each a squarèd lawn where from A golden-gorged dragon spouted forth The fountain's diamond foam.
All round the cool green courts there ran a row Of cloisters, branched like mighty woods, Echoing all night to that sonorous flow Of spouted fountain floods.
From those four jets four currents in one swell Over the black rock streamed below In steamy folds, that, floating as they fell, Lit up a torrent bow.
And round the roofs ran gilded galleries That gave large view to distant lands, Tall towns and mounds, and close beneath the skies Long lines of amber sands.
Huge incense-urns along the balustrade, Hollowed of solid amethyst, Each with a different odour fuming, made The air a silver mist.
Far-off 'twas wonderful to look upon Those sumptuous towers between the gleam Of that great foam-bow trembling in the sun, And the argent incense-steam;
And round the terraces and round the walls, While day sank lower or rose higher, To see those rails with all their knobs and balls, Burn like a fringe of fire.
Likewise the deepset windows, stained and traced. Burned, like slow-flaming crimson fires, From shadowed grots of arches interlaced, And topped with frostlike spires.]
[Footnote 27: 1833.
There deep-haired Milton like an angel tall Stood limnèd, Shakspeare bland and mild, Grim Dante pressed his lips, and from the wall The bald blind Homer smiled.
Recast in its present form in 1842. After this stanza in 1833 appear the following stanzas, excised in 1842:--
And underneath fresh carved in cedar wood, Somewhat alike in form and face, The Genii of every climate stood, All brothers of one race:
Angels who sway the seasons by their art, And mould all shapes in earth and sea; And with great effort build the human heart From earliest infancy.
And in the sun-pierced Oriels' coloured flame Immortal Michæl Angelo Looked down, bold Luther, large-browed Verulam, The King of those who know. [A]
Cervantes, the bright face of Calderon, Robed David touching holy strings, The Halicarnassean, and alone, Alfred the flower of kings.
Isaiah with fierce Ezekiel, Swarth Moses by the Coptic sea, Plato, Petrarca, Livy, and Raphael, And eastern Confutzer.
[Sub-Footnote A: Il maëstro di color chi sanno.--Dante, 'Inf.', iii.]]
[Footnote 28: Homer. 'Cf.' Pope's 'Temple of Fame', 183-7:--
Father of verse in holy fillets dress'd, His silver beard wav'd gently o'er his breast, Though blind a boldness in his looks appears, In years he seem'd but not impaired by years.]
[Footnote 29: All these stanzas were added in 1842. In 1833 appear the following stanzas, excised in 1842:--
As some rich tropic mountain, that infolds All change, from flats of scattered palms Sloping thro' five great zones of climate, holds His head in snows and calms--
Full of her own delight and nothing else, My vain-glorious, gorgeous soul Sat throned between the shining oriels, In pomp beyond control;
With piles of flavorous fruits in basket-twine Of gold, upheaped, crushing down Musk-scented blooms--all taste--grape, gourd or pine-- In bunch, or single grown--
Our growths, and such as brooding Indian heats Make out of crimson blossoms deep, Ambrosial pulps and juices, sweets from sweets Sun-changed, when sea-winds sleep.
With graceful chalices of curious wine, Wonders of art--and costly jars, And bossed salvers. Ere young night divine Crowned dying day with stars,
Making sweet close of his delicious toils, She lit white streams of dazzling gas, And soft and fragrant flames of precious oils In moons of purple glass
Ranged on the fretted woodwork to the ground. Thus her intense untold delight, In deep or vivid colour, smell and sound, Was nattered day and night. [A]
[Sub-Footnote A: If the poem were not already too long, I should have inserted in the text the following stanzas, expressive of the joy wherewith the soul contemplated the results of astronomical experiment. In the centre of the four quadrangles rose an immense tower.
Hither, when all the deep unsounded skies Shuddered with silent stars she clomb, And as with optic glasses her keen eyes Pierced thro' the mystic dome,
Regions of lucid matter taking forms, Brushes of fire, hazy gleams, Clusters and beds of worlds, and bee-like swarms Of suns, and starry streams.
She saw the snowy poles of moonless Mars, That marvellous round of milky light Below Orion, and those double stars Whereof the one more bright
Is circled by the other, etc.]
[Footnote 30: Thus in 1833:--
And many more, that in their lifetime were Full-welling fountain heads of change, Between the stone shafts glimmered, blazoned fair In divers raiment strange.]
[Footnote 31: The statue of Memnon near Thebes in Egypt when first struck by the rays of the rising sun is said to have become vocal, to have emitted responsive sounds. See for an account of this 'Pausanias', i., 42; Tacitus, 'Annals', ii., 61; and Juvenal, 'Sat.', xv., 5:
"Dimidio magicae resonant ubi Memnone Chordae,"
and compare Akenside's verses, 'Plea. of Imag.', i., 109-113:--
Old Memnon's image, long renown'd By fabling Nilus: to the quivering touch Of Titan's ray, with each repulsive string Consenting, sounded thro' the warbling air Unbidden strains.]
[Footnote 32: 1833. O'.]
[Footnote 33: Here added in 1842 and remaining till 1851 when they were excised are two stanzas:--
"From shape to shape at first within the womb The brain is modell'd," she began, "And thro' all phases of all thought I come Into the perfect man.
"All nature widens upward. Evermore The simpler essence lower lies: More complex is more perfect, owning more Discourse, more widely wise."]
[Footnote 34: These stanzas were added in 1851.]
[Footnote 35: Added in 1842, with the following variants which remained till 1851, when the present text was substituted:--
"I take possession of men's minds and deeds. I live in all things great and small. I sit apart holding no forms of creeds, But contemplating all."]
[Footnote 36: 1833. Sometimes.]
And intellectual throne Of full-sphered contemplation. So three years She throve, but on the fourth she fell.
And so the text remained till 1850, when the present reading was substituted.]
[Footnote 38: For the reference to Herod see 'Acts' xii. 21-23.]
[Footnote 39: Cf. Hallam's 'Remains', p. 132: "That, i.e. Redemption," is in the power of God's election with whom alone rest 'the abysmal secrets of personality'.]
[Footnote 40: See 'Daniel' v. 24-27.]
[Footnote 41: In 1833 the following stanza, excised in 1842:--
"Who hath drawn dry the fountains of delight, That from my deep heart everywhere Moved in my blood and dwelt, as power and might Abode in Sampson's hair?"]
[Footnote 42: 1833. Downward-sloping.]
[Footnote 43: 1833.
Or the sound Of stones.
So till 1851, when "a sound of rocks" was substituted.]
[Footnote 44: 1833. "Dying the death I die?" Present reading substituted in 1842.]
[Footnote 45: Because intellectual and aesthetic pleasures are 'abused' and their purpose and scope mistaken, there is no reason why they should not be enjoyed. See the allegory in 'In Memoriam', ciii., stanzas 12-13.]