by Alfred Tennyson, Lord (1809 - 1892)

Language: English 
Mystery of mysteries, 
Faintly smiling Adeline, 
Scarce of earth nor all divine, 
Nor unhappy, nor at rest, 
But beyond expression fair 
With thy floating flaxen hair; 
Thy rose-lips and full blue eyes 
Take the heart from out my breast. 
Wherefore those dim looks of thine, 
Shadowy, dreaming Adeline?

Whence that aery bloom of thine, 
Like a lily which the sun 
Looks thro' in his sad decline, 
And a rose-bush leans upon, 
Thou that faintly smilest still, 
As a Naiad in a well, 
Looking at the set of day, 
Or a phantom two hours old 
Of a maiden passed away, 
Ere the placid lips be cold? 
Wherefore those faint smiles of thine, 
Spiritual Adeline?

What hope or fear or joy is thine? 
Who talketh with thee, Adeline? 
For sure thou art not all alone: 
Do beating hearts of salient springs 
Keep measure with thine own? 
Hast thou heard the butterflies 
What they say betwixt their wings? 
Or in stillest evenings 
With what voice the violet woos 
To his heart the silver dews? 
Or when little airs arise, 
How the merry bluebell rings 
To the mosses underneath? 
Hast thou look'd upon the breath 
Of the lilies at sunrise? 
Wherefore that faint smile of thine, 
Shadowy, dreaming Adeline?

Some honey-converse feeds thy mind, 
Some spirit of a crimson rose 
In love with thee forgets to close 
His curtains, wasting odorous sighs 
All night long on darkness blind. 
What aileth thee? whom waitest thou 
With thy soften'd, shadow'd brow, 
And those dew-lit eyes of thine,  
Thou faint smiler, Adeline?

Lovest thou the doleful wind 
When thou gazest at the skies? 
Doth the low-tongued Orient
Wander from the side [of]1 the morn, 
Dripping with Sabsean spice 
On thy pillow, lowly bent
With melodious airs lovelorn, 
Breathing Light against thy face, 
While his locks a-dropping twined 
Round thy neck in subtle ring 
Make a 'carcanet of rays', 
And ye talk together still, 
In the language wherewith Spring 
Letters cowslips on the hill? 
Hence that look and smile of thine, 
Spiritual Adeline.

View original text (without footnotes)
1 1830 and all editions until 1853: " O' "
Note: a carcanet is a necklace


Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive):

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

This text was added to the website: 2011-04-26
Line count: 64
Word count: 335