Break, Break, Break by Alfred Tennyson









Break, Break, Break
by Alfred Tennyson

Break, break, break,

On thy cold gray stones, O sea!

And I would that my tongue could utter

The thoughts that arise in me.


O well for the fisherman's boy

That he shouts with his sister at play!

O well for the sailor lad

That he sings in his boat on the bay!


And the stately ships go on

To their haven under the hill;

But O for the touch of a vanished hand,

And the sound of a voice that is still!


Break, break, break,

At the foot of thy crags, O sea!

But the tender grace of a day that is dead

Will never come back to me.


Not a word said little Nelly; but at night, when Billy slept,

On she flung her scanty garments and then down the stairs she crept.

Through the silent streets of London she ran nimbly as a fawn,

Running on and running ever till the night had changed to dawn.


When the foggy sun had risen, and the mist had cleared away,

All around her, wrapped in snowdrift, there the open country lay.

She was tired, her limbs were frozen, and the roads had cut her feet,

But there came no flowery gardens her poor tearful eyes to greet.


She had traced the road by asking, she had learnt the way to go;

She had found the famous meadow—it was wrapped in cruel snow;

Not a buttercup or daisy, not a single verdant blade

Showed its head above its prison. Then she knelt her down and prayed;


With her eyes upcast to heaven, down she sank upon the ground,

And she prayed to God to tell her where the roses might be found.

Then the cold blast numbed her senses, and her sight grew strangely dim;

And a sudden, awful tremor seemed to seize her every limb.


"Oh, a rose!" she moaned, "good Jesus,—just a rose to take to Bill!"

And as she prayed a chariot came thundering down the hill;

And a lady sat there, toying with a red rose, rare and sweet;

As she passed she flung it from her, and it fell at Nelly's feet.


Just a word her lord had spoken caused her ladyship to fret,

And the rose had been his present, so she flung it in a pet;

But the poor, half-blinded Nelly thought it fallen from the skies,

And she murmured, "Thank you, Jesus!" as she clasped the dainty prize.


Lo! that night from but the alley did a child's soul pass away,

From dirt and sin and misery up to where God's children play.

Lo! that night a wild, fierce snowstorm burst in fury o'er the land,

And at morn they found Nell frozen, with the red rose in her hand.


Billy's dead, and gone to glory—so is Billy's sister Nell;

Am I bold to say this happened in the land where angels dwell,—

That the children met in heaven, after all their earthly woes,

And that Nelly kissed her brother, and said, "Billy, here's your rose"?