First published in 1842, but written in 1835. In it is incorporated, though with several alterations, 'The Sleeping Beauty', published among the poems of 1830, but excised in subsequent editions.
Half extravaganza and half apologue, like the 'Midsummer Night's Dream', this delightful poem may be safely left to deliver its own message and convey its own meaning. It is an excellent illustration of the truth of Tennyson's own remark: "Poetry is like shot silk with many glancing colours. Every reader must find his own interpretation according to his ability, and according to his sympathy with the poet."
(No alteration has been made in the Prologue since 1842.)
O, Lady Flora, let me speak: A pleasant hour has past away While, dreaming on your damask cheek, The dewy sister-eyelids lay.
As by the lattice you reclined, I went thro' many wayward moods To see you dreaming--and, behind, A summer crisp with shining woods. And I too dream'd, until at last Across my fancy, brooding warm, The reflex of a legend past, And loosely settled into form. And would you have the thought I had, And see the vision that I saw, Then take the broidery-frame, and add A crimson to the quaint Macaw, And I will tell it. Turn your face, Nor look with that too-earnest eye-- The rhymes are dazzled from their place, And order'd words asunder fly.
THE SLEEPING PALACE
(No alteration since 1851.)
The varying year with blade and sheaf Clothes and reclothes the happy plains; Here rests the sap within the leaf, Here stays the blood along the veins. Faint shadows, vapours lightly curl'd, Faint murmurs from the meadows come, Like hints and echoes of the world To spirits folded in the womb.
Soft lustre bathes the range of urns On every slanting terrace-lawn. The fountain to his place returns Deep in the garden lake withdrawn. Here droops the banner on the tower, On the hall-hearths the festal fires, The peacock in his laurel bower, The parrot in his gilded wires.
Roof-haunting martins warm their eggs: In these, in those the life is stay'd. The mantles from the golden pegs Droop sleepily: no sound is made, Not even of a gnat that sings. More like a picture seemeth all Than those old portraits of old kings, That watch the sleepers from the wall.
Here sits the Butler with a flask Between his knees, half-drain'd; and there The wrinkled steward at his task, The maid-of-honour blooming fair: The page has caught her hand in his: Her lips are sever'd as to speak: His own are pouted to a kiss: The blush is fix'd upon her cheek.
Till all the hundred summers pass, The beams, that thro' the Oriel shine, Make prisms in every carven glass, And beaker brimm'd with noble wine. Each baron at the banquet sleeps, Grave faces gather'd in a ring. His state the king reposing keeps. He must have been a jovial king. 
All round a hedge upshoots, and shows At distance like a little wood; Thorns, ivies, woodbine, misletoes, And grapes with bunches red as blood; All creeping plants, a wall of green Close-matted, bur and brake and briar, And glimpsing over these, just seen, High up, the topmost palace-spire.
When will the hundred summers die, And thought and time be born again, And newer knowledge, drawing nigh, Bring truth that sways the soul of men? Here all things in there place remain, As all were order'd, ages since. Come, Care and Pleasure, Hope and Pain, And bring the fated fairy Prince.
[Footnote 1: All editions up to and including 1851:--He must have been a jolly king.]
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