To-night ungather'd let us leave
This laurel, let this holly stand:
We live within the stranger's land,
And strangely falls our Christmas-eve.
Our father's dust is left alone
And silent under other snows:
There in due time the woodbine blows,
The violet comes, but we are gone.
No more shall wayward grief abuse
The genial hour with mask and mime;
For change of place, like growth of time,
Has broke the bond of dying use.
Let cares that petty shadows cast,
By which our lives are chiefly proved,
A little spare the night I loved,
And hold it solemn to the past.
But let no footstep beat the floor,
Nor bowl of wassail mantle warm;
For who would keep an ancient form
Thro' which the spirit breathes no more?
Be neither song, nor game, nor feast;
Nor harp be touch'd, nor flute be blown;
No dance, no motion, save alone
What lightens in the lucid east
Of rising worlds by yonder wood.
Long sleeps the summer in the seed;
Run out your measured arcs, and lead
The closing cycle rich in good.
- He's experiencing a foreign Christmas in a foreign land.
- Not surprisingly, Tennyson is feeling a sense of dislocation. So he wants to not even bother gathering up the laurel and holly. Everything is "strange" to him because his surroundings are so different. We're not supposed to read this as being in a different country, but instead just a different area of England.
- Because of all this, Tennyson doesn't feel much like celebrating. He wants something more solemn to mark the occasion, because he feels even more disconnected from his home and from Arthur.
- Remember all that singing and game-playing that went on in the last Christmas Tennyson described? Well, forget about it now. He doesn't feel like playing any of those reindeer games this time (sniff).