I built my soul a lordly pleasure-house wherein at ease for aye to dwell

From Tennyson’s The Palace of Art – recalled thanks to a quote (somewhat inappropriate given Morris’ sociability) in the early pages of William Morris and his Palace of Art. This brief prompt has a good overview of the poem’s perspective, as does this full text. Below is an excerpt from the conclusion. The subject is the speaker’s soul:


I built my soul a lordly pleasure-house
Wherein at ease for aye to dwell.
I said, “O Soul, make merry and carouse,
Dear soul, for all is well”.

A huge crag-platform, smooth as burnish’d brass,
I chose. The ranged ramparts bright
From level meadow-bases of deep grass
Suddenly scaled the light.

Thereon I built it firm. Of ledge or shelf
The rock rose clear, or winding stair.
My soul would live alone unto herself
In her high palace there.

And “while the world runs round and round,”
I said, “Reign thou apart, a quiet king,
Still as, while Saturn whirls, his stedfast shade
Sleeps on his luminous ring.”

To which my soul made answer readily:
“Trust me, in bliss I shall abide
In this great mansion, that is built for me,

……

Back on herself her serpent pride had curl’d.
“No voice,” she shriek’d in that lone hall,
“No voice breaks thro’ the stillness of this world:
One deep, deep silence all!”

She, mouldering with the dull earth’s mouldering sod,
Inwrapt tenfold in slothful shame,
Lay there exiled from eternal God,
Lost to her place and name;

And death and life she hated equally,
And nothing saw, for her despair,
But dreadful time, dreadful eternity,
No comfort anywhere;

Remaining utterly confused with fears,
And ever worse with growing time,
And ever unrelieved by dismal tears,
And all alone in crime:

Shut up as in a crumbling tomb, girt round
With blackness as a solid wall,
Far off she seem’d to hear the dully sound
Of human footsteps fall.

As in strange lands a traveller walking slow,
In doubt and great perplexity,
A little before moon-rise hears the low
Moan of an unknown sea;

And knows not if it be thunder or a sound
Of rocks thrown down, or one deep cry
Of great wild beasts; then thinketh, “I have found
A new land, but I die”.

She howl’d aloud, “I am on fire within.
There comes no murmur of reply.
What is it that will take away my sin,
And save me lest I die?”

So when four years were wholly finished,
She threw her royal robes away.
“Make me a cottage in the vale,” she said,
“Where I may mourn and pray.

“Yet pull not down my palace towers, that are
So lightly, beautifully built:
Perchance I may return with others there
When I have purged my guilt.”

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