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Tennyson’s Song

Alfred, Lord Tennyson used a garden metaphor when he wrote about an old year coming to a close.

dead sunflower in winter

Photo: Stephanie Foyer

"Heavily hangs the broad sunflower over its grave in the earth so chilly."

Alfred, Lord Tennyson used a garden metaphor when he wrote about an old year coming to a close.  He called his poem, “Song.”

A spirit haunts the year’s last hours

Dwelling amid those yellowing bowers:

To himself he talks;

For at eventide, listening earnestly,

At his work you may hear him so and sigh

In the walks;

Earthward he boweth the heavy stalks

Of the mouldering flowers:

Heavily hangs the broad sunflower

Over its grave in the earth so chilly;

Heavily hangs the hollyhock,

Heavily hangs the tiger-lily.

The air is damp, and hushed, and close

As a sick man’s room when he taketh repose

An hour before death;

My very heart faints and my whole soul grieves

At the moist rich smell of the rotting leaves,

And the breath

Of the fading edges of box beneath,

And the year’s last rose.

Heavily hangs the broad sunflower

Over its grave in the earth so chilly;

Heavily hangs the hollyhock,

Heavily hangs the tiger-lily.

Tennyson’s poem is like a dirge for last year’s flowers.  However, since the flower garden is a renewable resource, we can look forward to the New Year and the flowers yet to come.

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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