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The Well Read Poem

Apr 19, 2021

Welcome to Season 2 of The Well Read Poem podcast. During this season, our host, classicist and poet Thomas Banks will be reading and interpreting six poems of history. This week's poem is “To Virgil” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Poem begins at timestamp 6:06.

To Virgil

by Alfred, Lord Tennyson


Roman Virgil, thou that singest 

Ilion's lofty temples robed in fire, 

Ilion falling, Rome arising, 

wars, and filial faith, and Dido's pyre; 


Landscape-lover, lord of language 

more than he that sang the "Works and Days," 

All the chosen coin of fancy 

flashing out from many a golden phrase; 


Thou that singest wheat and woodland, 

tilth and vineyard, hive and horse and herd; 

All the charm of all the Muses 

often flowering in a lonely word; 


Poet of the happy Tityrus 

piping underneath his beechen bowers; 

Poet of the poet-satyr 

whom the laughing shepherd bound with flowers; 


Chanter of the Pollio, glorying 

in the blissful years again to be, 

Summers of the snakeless meadow, 

unlaborious earth and oarless sea; 


Thou that seëst Universal 

Nature moved by Universal Mind; 

Thou majestic in thy sadness 

at the doubtful doom of human kind; 


Light among the vanish'd ages; 

star that gildest yet this phantom shore; 

Golden branch amid the shadows, 

kings and realms that pass to rise no more; 


Now thy Forum roars no longer, 

fallen every purple Cæsar's dome— 

Tho' thine ocean-roll of rhythm 

sound forever of Imperial Rome— 


Now the Rome of slaves hath perish'd, 

and the Rome of freemen holds her place, 

I, from out the Northern Island 

sunder'd once from all the human race, 


I salute thee, Mantovano, 

I that loved thee since my day began, 

Wielder of the stateliest measure 

ever moulded by the lips of man.