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To----: Clear-headed friend...

First printed in 1830.

The friend to whom these verses were addressed was Joseph William Blakesley, third Classic and Senior Chancellor's Medallist in 1831, and afterwards Dean of Lincoln. Tennyson said of him: "He ought to be Lord Chancellor, for he is a subtle and powerful reasoner, and an honest man".--'Life', i., 65. He was a contributor to the 'Edinburgh' and 'Quarterly Reviews', and died in April, 1885. See memoir of him in the 'Dictionary of National Biography'.


Clear-headed friend, whose joyful scorn, Edged with sharp laughter, cuts atwain The knots that tangle human creeds, [1] The wounding cords that [2] bind and strain The heart until it bleeds, Ray-fringed eyelids of the morn Roof not a glance so keen as thine: If aught of prophecy be mine, Thou wilt not live in vain.


Low-cowering shall the Sophist sit; Falsehood shall bear her plaited brow: Fair-fronted Truth shall droop not now With shrilling shafts of subtle wit. Nor martyr-flames, nor trenchant swords Can do away that ancient lie; A gentler death shall Falsehood die, Shot thro' and thro'[3] with cunning words.


Weak Truth a-leaning on her crutch, Wan, wasted Truth in her utmost need, Thy kingly intellect shall feed, Until she be an athlete bold, And weary with a finger's touch Those writhed limbs of lightning speed; Like that strange angel [4] which of old, Until the breaking of the light, Wrestled with wandering Israel, Past Yabbok brook the livelong night, And heaven's mazed signs stood still In the dim tract of Penuel.

[Footnote 1: 1830. The knotted lies of human creeds.]

[Footnote 2: 1830. "Which" for "that".]

[Footnote 3: 1830. Through and through.]

[Footnote 4: The reference is to Genesis xxxii. 24-32.]

Lord Alfred Tennyson

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