We leave the well-beloved place
Where first we gazed upon the sky;
The roofs, that heard our earliest cry,
Will shelter one of stranger race.
We go, but ere we go from home,
As down the garden-walks I move,
Two spirits of a diverse love
Contend for loving masterdom.
One whispers, "Here thy boyhood sung
Long since its matin song, and heard
The low love-language of the bird
In native hazels tassel-hung."
The other answers, "Yea, but here
Thy feet have stray'd in after hours
With thy lost friend among the bowers,
And this hath made them trebly dear."
These two have striven half the day,
And each prefers his separate claim,
Poor rivals in a losing game,
That will not yield each other way.
I turn to go: my feet are set
To leave the pleasant fields and farms;
They mix in one another's arms
To one pure image of regret.
- Ah-ha—now this is making a bit more sense. The landscape isn't just some random field, farmland, grove, or beach somewhere. It appears to be the childhood home of Tennyson.
- He refers to roofs that "heard our earliest cry" and the morning song that his "boyhood" once sang.
- He must have grown up here, then. That's why we've been getting a sense of attachment over the last several cantos.
- Plus, he got to share this with Arthur, so the landscape means something on two levels.
- He's wearing two hats when looking at this land. One is the hat of his childhood self, which has good memories. The other hat is that of his young adulthood, when he hung out with Arthur here and shared these sights with his friend.
- He imagines these two selves sort of duking it out for half the day, arguing over who has the better claim to this landscape. Which one do you think will win?
- In the end, as he's leaving, these two versions of himself mingle into one that reflects only regret.