It is the day when he was born,
A bitter day that early sank
Behind a purple-frosty bank
Of vapour, leaving night forlorn.
The time admits not flowers or leaves
To deck the banquet. Fiercely flies
The blast of North and East, and ice
Makes daggers at the sharpen'd eaves,
And bristles all the brakes and thorns
To yon hard crescent, as she hangs
Above the wood which grides and clangs
Its leafless ribs and iron horns
Together, in the drifts that pass
To darken on the rolling brine
That breaks the coast. But fetch the wine,
Arrange the board and brim the glass;
Bring in great logs and let them lie,
To make a solid core of heat;
Be cheerful-minded, talk and treat
Of all things ev'n as he were by;
We keep the day. With festal cheer,
With books and music, surely we
Will drink to him, whate'er he be,
And sing the songs he loved to hear.
- So, you might have already gotten the message that Christmas celebrations are particularly hard on the speaker, since it was a time of joy that he once shared with his dear friend.
- As you can well imagine, it's probably not that great on Arthur's birthday, either. In fact, it's probably much worse.
- Tennyson appears to be talking about Arthur's birthday here. Understandably, this is bringing a bit more sadness back to him.
- This day is "bitter" and linked with frost and "vapour" (probably fog, which is gloomy and doesn't really make for a happy landscape).
- In fact, it's all really quite threatening. Check out how the icicles are like "daggers."
- But wait...what's this? He's calling for wine and for the table to be set.
- It turns out that the speaker and others are celebrating the day with cheer and with the things that Arthur would have appreciated: books, music, and songs that he liked.
- It's almost as if Arthur were nearby: "ev'n as he were by" (2312).