Falling in love, age sixteen

Albert_Bierstadt,_Among_the_Sierra_Nevada_Mountains
Albert Bierstadt, Among the Sierra Nevada Mountains

It was in my English textbook, tenth grade. We didn’t even cover  it in class. I found it by skimming forward in the book, because I was bored. I don’t remember what I was supposed to be focusing on.

I only remember the feeling of transported joy. The poem seemed to me a perfect thing. It said something I had always wanted to say. It encompassed a feeling that I couldn’t really describe, but that I also looked for in the fantasy novels I was fond of. The feeling you get from the paintings of the Hudson River School. The idea that the world is full of the sublime – in its full meaning of “beautiful” but also frightening or awe-inspiring.

The Splendor Falls

The splendor falls on castle walls

    And snowy summits old in story;

The long light shakes across the lakes,

    And the wild cataract leaps in glory.

Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,

Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.

O, hark, O, hear! how thin and clear,

    And thinner, clearer, farther going!

O, sweet and far from cliff and scar

    The horns of Elfland faintly blowing!

Blow, let us hear the purple glens replying,

Blow, bugles; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.

O love, they die in yon rich sky,

    They faint on hill or field  or river;

Our echoes roll from soul to soul,

    And grow forever and forever.

Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,

And answer, echoes, answer, dying, dying, dying.

 – Alfred, Lord Tennyson

“Our echoes roll from soul to soul” – there in the middle of this fantastical lyric is this serious statement about us, the little humans who haven’t even appeared in the poem up till now. What a hopeful assertion – that the echoes of us “grow forever and forever.”

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