Dost thou look back on what hath been,
As some divinely gifted man,
Whose life in low estate began
And on a simple village green;
Who breaks his birth's invidious bar,
And grasps the skirts of happy chance,
And breasts the blows of circumstance,
And grapples with his evil star;
Who makes by force his merit known
And lives to clutch the golden keys,
To mould a mighty state's decrees,
And shape the whisper of the throne;
And moving up from high to higher,
Becomes on Fortune's crowning slope
The pillar of a people's hope,
The centre of a world's desire;
Yet feels, as in a pensive dream,
When all his active powers are still,
A distant dearness in the hill,
A secret sweetness in the stream,
The limit of his narrower fate,
While yet beside its vocal springs
He play'd at counsellors and kings,
With one that was his earliest mate;
Who ploughs with pain his native lea
And reaps the labour of his hands,
Or in the furrow musing stands;
"Does my old friend remember me?"
- Here's another metaphor that Tennyson plays with to show us the difference that now exists (or even previously existed?) between him and Arthur.
- Arthur's life was like someone who started off simply and then, through a combination of good luck and struggling against misfortune ("evil star"), ended up achieving great things. It's a bit like the whole "American Dream" trope, but only all English-y.
- The one left behind back in the village (that would be Tennyson in this analogy) always wonders, "Does my friend, who is now this great and important guy, remember me?"