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> Avant News: Deadpan satire from plausible futures


Poetry of Alfred, Lord Tennyson

THE GRANDMOTHER   

       I.
And Willy, my eldest-born, is gone, you say, little
     Anne?
Ruddy and white, and strong on his legs, he looks like
     a man.
And Willy's wife has written: she never was over-
     wise,
Never the wife for Willy: he would n't take my
     advice.

      II.
For, Annie, you see, her father was not the man to
     save,
Had n't a head to manage, and drank himself into his
     grave.
Pretty enough, very pretty! but I was against it for
     one.
Eh!--but he would n't hear me--and Willy, you say,
     is gone.

      III.
Willy, my beauty, my eldest-born, the flower of the
       flock;
Never a man could fling him: for Willy stood like a
       rock.
`Here's a leg for a babe of a week!' says doctor; and
       he would be bound,
There was not his like that year in twenty parishes
       round.

       IV.
Strong of his hands, and strong on his legs, but still of
       his tongue!
I ought to have gone before him: I wonder he went
       so young.
I cannot cry for him, Annie: I have not long to
       stay;
Perhaps I shall see him the sooner, for he lived far
       away.

        V.
Why do you look at me, Annie? you think I am hard
       and cold;
But all my children have gone before me, I am so
       old:
I cannot weep for Willy, nor can I weep for the
       rest;
Only at your age, Annie, I could have wept with the
       best.

       VI.
For I remember a quarrel I had with your father, my
       dear,
All for a slanderous story, that cost me many a
       tear.
I mean your grandfather, Annie: it cost me a world
       of woe,
Seventy years ago, my darling, seventy years
       ago.

      VII.
For Jenny, my cousin, had come to the place, and I
       knew right well
That Jenny had tript in her time: I knew, but I
       would not tell.
And she to be coming and slandering me, the base
       little liar!
But the tongue is a fire as you know, my dear, the
       tongue is a fire.

      VIII.
And the parson made it his text that week, and he
       said likewise,
That a lie which is half a truth is ever the blackest of
       lies,
That a lie which is all a lie may be met and fought
       with outright,
But a lie which is part a truth is a harder matter to
       fight.

       IX.
And Willy had not been down to the farm for a week
       and a day;
And all things look'd half-dead, tho' it was the middle
       of May.
Jenny, to slander me, who knew what Jenny had
       been!
But soiling another, Annie, will never make oneself
       clean.

        X.
And I cried myself well-nigh blind, and all of an
       evening late
I climb'd to the top of the garth, and stood by the
       road at the gate.
The moon like a rick on fire was rising over the
       dale,
And whit, whit, whit, in the bush beside me chirrupt
       the nightingale.

       XI.
All of a sudden he stopt: there past by the gate of
       the farm,
Willy,--he did n't see me,--and Jenny hung on his
       arm.
Out into the road I started, and spoke I scarce knew
       how;
Ah, there's no fool like the old one--it makes me
       angry now.

      XII.
Willy stood up like a man, and look'd the thing that
       he meant;
Jenny, the viper, made me a mocking courtesy and
       went.
And I said, `Let us part: in a hundred years it'll all
       be the same,
You cannot love me at all, if you love not my good
       name.'

      XIII.
And he turn'd, and I saw his eyes all wet, in the sweet
       moonshine:
Sweetheart, I love you so well that your good name
       is mine.
And what do I care for Jane, let her speak of you well
       of ill;
But marry me out of hand: we two shall be happy
       still.'

       XIV.
`Marry you, Willy!' said I, `but I needs must speak
       my mind,
And I fear you'll listen to tales, be jealous and hard
       and unkind.'
But he turn'd and claspt me in his arms, and answer'd,
       `No, love, no;'
Seventy years ago, my darling, seventy years
       ago.

        XV.
So Willy and I were wedded: I wore a lilac
       gown;
And the ringers rang with a will, and he gave the
       ringers a crown.
But the first that ever I bare was dead before he was
       born,
Shadow and shine is life, little Annie, flower and
       thorn.

       XVI.
That was the first time, too, that ever I thought of
       death.
There lay the sweet little body that never had drawn
       a breath.
I had not wept, little Anne, not since I had been a
       wife;
But I wept like a child that day, for the babe had
       fought for his life.

       XVII.
His dear little face was troubled, as if with anger or
       pain:
I look'd at the still little body--his trouble had all
       been in vain.
For Willy I cannot weep, I shall see him another
       morn:
But I wept like a child for the child that was dead
       before he was born.

      XVIII.
But he cheer'd me, my good man, for he seldom said me
       nay:
Kind, like a man, was he; like a man, too, would have
       his way:
Never jealous--not he: we had many a happy
       year;
And he died, and I could not weep--my own time
       seem'd so near.

       XIX.
But I wish'd it had been God's will that I, too, then
       could have died:
I began to be tired a little, and fain had slept at his
       side.
And that was ten years back, or more, if I don't
       forget:
But as to the children, Annie, they're all about me
       yet.

       XX.
Pattering over the boards, my Annie who left me at
       two,
Patter she goes, my own little Annie, an Annie like
       you:
Pattering over the boards, she comes and goes at her
       will,
While Harry is in the five-acre and Charlie ploughing
       the hill.

      XXI.
And Harry and Charlie, I hear them too--they sing
       to their team:
Often they come to the door in a pleasant kind of a
       dream.
They come and sit by my chair, they hover about my
       bed--
I am not always certain if they be alive or
       dead.

     XXII.
And yet I know for a truth, there's none of them
       left alive;
For Harry went at sixty, your father at sixty-
       five:
And Willy, my eldest born, at nigh threescore and
       ten;
I knew them all as babies, and now they're elderly
       men.

    XXIII.
For mine is a time of peace, it is not often I
       grieve;
I am oftener sitting at home in my father's farm
       at eve:
And the neighbors come and laugh and gossip, and
       so do I;
I find myself often laughing at things that have long
       gone by.

     XXIV.
To be sure the preacher says, our sins should make
       us sad:
But mine is a time of peace, and there is Grace to
       be had;
And God, not man, is the Judge of us all when life
       shall cease;
And in this Book, little Annie, the message is one of
       Peace.

     XXV.
And age is a time of peace, so it be free from
       pain,
And happy has been my life; but I would not live
       it again.
I seem to be tired a little, that's all, and long for
       rest;
Only at your age, Annie, I could have wept with the
       best.

    XXVI.
So Willy has gone, my beauty, my eldest-born, my
       flower;
But how can I weep for Willy, he has but gone for
       an hour,--
Gone for a minute, my son, from this room into the
       next;
I, too, shall go in a minute.  What time have I to
       be vext?

    XXVII.
And Willy's wife has written, she never was over-
       wise.
Get me my glasses, Annie: thank God that I keep
       my eyes.
There is but a trifle left you, when I shall have past
       away.
But stay with the old woman now: you cannot have
       long to stay.