Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE VALE OF BONES, by ALFRED TENNYSON

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE VALE OF BONES, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Along yon vapour-mantled sky
Last Line: Thou melancholy vale of bones!
Alternate Author Name(s): Tennyson, Lord Alfred; Tennyson, 1st Baron; Tennyson Of Aldworth And Farringford, Baron

ALONG yon vapour-mantled sky
The dark-red moon is riding high;
At times her beams in beauty break
Upon the broad and silv'ry lake;
At times more bright they clearly fall
On some white castle's ruin'd wall;
At times her partial splendour shines
Upon the grove of deep-black pines,
Through which the dreary night-breeze moans,
Above this Vale of scatter'd bones.

The low, dull gale can scarcely stir
The branches of that black'ning fir,
Which betwixt me and heav'n flings wido
Its shadowy boughs on either side,
And o'er yon granite rock uprears
Its giant form of many years.
And the shrill owlet's desolate wail
Comes to mine ear along the gale,
As, list'ning to its lengthen'd tones,
I dimly pace the Vale of Bones.

Dark Valley! still the same art thou,
Unchang'd thy mountain's cloudy brow;
Still from you cliffs, that part asunder,
Falls down the torrent's echoing thunder;
Still from this mound of reeds and rushes
With bubbling sound the fountain gushes;
Thence, winding thro' the whisp'ring ranks
Of sedges on the willowy banks,
Still brawling, chafes the rugged stones
That strew this dismal Vale of Bones.

Unchang'd art thou! no storm hath rent
Thy rude and rocky battlement;
Thy rioting mountains sternly pil'd,
The screen of nature, wide and wild:
But who were they, whose bones bestrew
The heather, cold with midnight dew,
Upon whose slowly-rotting clay
The raven long hath ceas'd to prey,
But, mould'ring in the moon-light air,
Their wan, white skulls show bleak and bare?
And, aye, the dreary night-breeze moans
Above them in this Vale of Bones!

I knew them all -- a gallant band,
The glory of their native land,
And on each lordly brow elate
Sate valour and contempt of fate,
Fierceness of youth, and scorn of foe,
And pride to render blow for blow.
In the strong war's tumultuous crash,
How darkly did their keen eyes flash!
How fearlessly each arm was rais'd!
How dazzlingly each broad-sword blaz'd!
Though now the dreary night-breeze moans
Above them in this Vale of Bones.

What lapse of time shall sweep away
The memory of that gallant day,
When on to battle proudly going,
Your plumage to the wild winds blowing,
Your tartans far behind ye flowing,
Your pennons rais'd, your clarions sounding,
Fiercely your steeds beneath ye bounding,
Ye mix'd the strife of warring foes
In fiery shock and deadly close?
What stampings in the madd'ning strife,
What thrusts, what stabs, with brand and knife,
What desp'rate strokes for death or life,
Were there! What cries, what thrilling groans,
Re-echo'd thro' the Vale of Bones!

Thou peaceful Vale, whose mountains lonely,
Sound to the torrent's chiding only,
Or wild-goat's cry from rocky ledge,
Or bull-frog from the rustling sedge,
Or eagle from her airy cairn,
Or screaming of the startled hern --
How did thy million echoes waken
Amid thy caverns deeply shaken!
How with the red dew o'er thee rain'd
Thine emerald turf was darkly stain'd!
How did each innocent flower, that sprung
Thy greenly-tangl'd glades among,
Blush with the big and purple drops
That dribbled from the leafy copse!
I pac'd the valley, when the yell
Of triumph's voice had ceas'd to swell:
When battle's brazen throat no more
Rais'd its annihilating roar.
There lay ye on each other pil'd,
Your brows with noble dust defil'd;
There, by the loudly-gushing water,
Lay man and horse in mingled slaughter.
Then wept I not, thrice gallant band;
For though no more each dauntless hand
The thunder of the combat hurl'd,
Yet still with pride your lips were curl'd;
And e'en in death's o'erwhelming shade
Your fingers linger'd round the blade!
I deem'd, when gazing proudly there
Upon the fix'd and haughty air
That mark'd each warrior's bloodless face,
Ye would not change the narrow space
Which each cold form of breathless clay
Then cover'd, as on earth ye lay,
For realms, for sceptres, or for thrones --
I dream'd not on this Vale of Bones!

But years have thrown their veil between,
And alter'd is that lonely scene;
And dreadful emblems of thy might,
Stern Dissolution! meet my sight:
The eyeless socket, dark and dull,
The hideous grinning of the skull,
Are sights which Memory disowns,
Thou melancholy Vale of Bones!

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