On a Mourner By Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809–1892)

Perusing Snipe and Woodcock by L.H. De Visme Shaw, from the Fur, Feather and Fin Series, published 1903 by Longman, Green and Co. I stumbled across this plate with a line from Tennyson’s On a Mourner:

Tennyson's Snipe

“The Birds of Tennyson”, by Watkin Watkins, beautifully describes Tennyson’s treatment of the snipe here:

‘The Snipe. — Tennyson’s reference to

The swamp, where humm’d the dropping snipe,

is remarkable as an instance of his accuracy of observation of natural objects.  Chapman “Bird Life on the Borders” tells us that ‘snipe only drum head to wind and when falling.’  The drumming of humming of the snipe is a curious sound which the bird makes with it’s wings, and is only heard when it takes a downward course.  Its flight is well described by Wordsworth, who in The Excursion speaks of the “darting snipe”‘

Below is Tennyson’s thought provoking poem.  How often do our thoughts drift in such directions while wandering the snipe bog?

On a Mourner
By Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809–1892)

NATURE, so far as in her lies,
Imitates God, and turns her face
To every land beneath the skies,
Counts nothing that she meets with base,
But lives and loves in every place; 5

Fills out the homely quickset-screens,
And makes the purple lilac ripe,
Steps from her airy hill, and greens
The swamp, where humm’d the dropping snipe,
With moss and braided marish-pipe; 10

And on thy heart a finger lays,
Saying, “Beat quicker, for the time
Is pleasant, and the woods and ways
Are pleasant, and the beech and lime
Put forth and feel a gladder clime.” 15

And murmurs of a deeper voice,
Going before to some far shrine,
Teach that sick heart the stronger choice,
Till all thy life one way incline,
With one wide will that closes thine. 20

And when the zoning eve has died
Where yon dark valleys wind forlorn,
Come Hope and Memory, spouse and bride,
From out the borders of the morn,
With that fair child betwixt them born. 25

And when no mortal motion jars
The blackness round the tombing sod,
Thro’ silence and the trembling stars
Comes Faith from tracts no feet have trod,
And Virtue, like a household god 30

Promising empire; such as those
Once heard at dead of night to greet
Troy’s wandering prince, so that he rose
With sacrifice, while all the fleet
Had rest by stony hills of Crete. 35

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