Could I have said while he was here, "My love shall now no further range; There cannot come a mellower change, For now is love mature in ear"?
Love, then, had hope of richer store: What end is here to my complaint? This haunting whisper makes me faint, "More years had made me love thee more.'
But Death returns an answer sweet: "My sudden frost was sudden gain, And gave all ripeness to the grain, It might have drawn from after-heat."
Tennyson wonders whether, when Arthur was still alive, their friendship had reached its highest level.
This is the "mellower change" we see in the first stanza. He wonders if their love is "mature in ear." What a strange way to put this: an old ear—say what?
This isn't as weird as you imagine. Think not about an ear that you hear with, but an ear that you eat. He's talking about how an ear of corn ripens into fruit.
Way back then, there was hope that their friendship could grow even greater than it was.
The speaker soon consoles himself with the idea that, when Arthur died, this process of maturation happened all at once, kind of like those time-lapse movies where you can see a sprout growing into a mature plant in the span of about thirty seconds.
Death reassures him that Arthur's "sudden death" caused "all ripeness to the grain."