Not currently on display at the V&A

Text of poem 'The May Queen' from 'Illustrations to Tennyson's Idylls of the King and Other Poems', vol. 2

Photograph
1875 (printed)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

In 1874, Julia Margaret Cameron's neighbor, and renowned poet, Alfred Tennyson suggested that Cameron create some illustrations for a new volume of his series of poems on Arthurian legends, "Idylls of the King." In the end, only three images were used, as woodcuts, but the full-size prints were later published in two volumes and were accompanied by excerpts from Tennyson's text and his signature. This is a section of verse from volume two.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Additional TitleIdylls of the King and other Poems, vol. 2 (series title)
Materials and Techniques
Ink on paper
Brief Description
Text of poem 'The May Queen' from 'Illustrations to Tennyson's Idylls of the King and Other Poems', vol. 2, 1875 illustrated with photographs by Julia Margaret Cameron
Physical Description
Printed page of poem text in book of poems with photographic illustrations.
Dimensions
  • Book cover height: 44.9cm
  • Book cover width: 39cm
  • Page height: 43cm
  • Page width: 33cm
Marks and Inscriptions
I thought to pass away before, and yet alive I am; And in the fields all around I hear the bleating of the lamb. How sadly, I remember, rose the morning of the year! To die before the snowdrop came, and now the violet ’s here. O, sweet is the new violet, that comes beneath the skies; And sweeter is the young lamb’s voice to me that cannot rise; And sweet is all the land about, and all the flowers that blow; And sweeter far is death than life, to me that long to go. It seemed so hard at first, mother, to leave the blessèd sun, And now it seems as hard to stay; and yet, His will be done! But still I think it can’t be long before I find release; And that good man, the clergyman, has told me words of peace. O, blessings on his kindly voice, and on his silver hair, And blessings on his whole life long, until he meet me there! O, blessings on his kindly heart and on his silver head! A thousand times I blest him, as he knelt beside my bed. He taught me all the mercy, for he showed me all the sin; Now, though my lamp was lighted late, there ’s One will let me in. Nor would I now be well, mother, again, if that could be; For my desire is but to pass to Him that died for me. I did not hear the dog howl, mother, or the death-watch beat,— There came a sweeter token when the night and morning meet; But sit beside my bed, mother, and put your hand in mine, And Effie on the other side, and I will tell the sign. All in the wild March-morning I heard the angels call,— It was when the moon was setting, and the dark was over all; The trees began to whisper, and the wind began to roll, And in the wild March-morning I heard them call my soul. For, lying broad awake, I thought of you and Effie dear; I saw you sitting in the house, and I no longer here; With all my strength I prayed for both,—and so I felt resigned, And up the valley came a swell of music on the wind. I thought that it was fancy, and I listened in my bed; And then did something speak to me,—I know not what was said; For great delight and shuddering took hold of all my mind, And up the valley came again the music on the wind. But you were sleeping; and I said, “It ’s not for them,—it ’s mine;” And if it comes three times, I thought, I take it for a sign. And once again it came, and close beside the window-bars; Then seemed to go right up to heaven and die among the stars. So now I think my time is near; I trust it is. I know The blessèd music went that way my soul will have to go. And for myself, indeed, I care not if I go to-day; But Effie, you must comfort her when I am past away. And say to Robin a kind word, and tell him not to fret; There ’s many a worthier than I, would make him happy yet. If I had lived—I cannot tell—I might have been his wife; But all these things have ceased to be, with my desire of life. O, look! the sun begins to rise! the heavens are in a glow; He shines upon a hundred fields, and all of them I know. And there I move no longer now, and there his light may shine,— Wild flowers in the valley for other hands than mine. O, sweet and strange it seems to me, that ere this day is done The voice that now is speaking may be beyond the sun,— Forever and forever with those just souls and true,— And what is life, that we should moan? why make we such ado? Forever and forever, all in a blessèd home,— And there to wait a little while till you and Effie come,— To lie within the light of God, as I lie upon your breast,— And the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest.
Object history
Originally part of a bound folio volume containing 11 photographs by Cameron and 11 pages of verse text by Tennyson and 3 other text pages (two photographs are missing, the frontispiece image of Tennyson and the last image, 'The Passing of Arthur'). Volume 2 of two albums of illustrations to Tennyson's 'Idylls of the King and other Poems' published by Henry S. King & Co., 1874-75). Each photograph is mounted on bluish mounts with gilt borders.
Associations
Literary Reference'Illustrations to Tennyson's Idylls of the King, and other poems', vol. 2, by Julia Margaret Cameron. London: Henry S. King & Co., 1875.
Summary
In 1874, Julia Margaret Cameron's neighbor, and renowned poet, Alfred Tennyson suggested that Cameron create some illustrations for a new volume of his series of poems on Arthurian legends, "Idylls of the King." In the end, only three images were used, as woodcuts, but the full-size prints were later published in two volumes and were accompanied by excerpts from Tennyson's text and his signature. This is a section of verse from volume two.
Associated Object
38-1939 (Part)
Collection
Accession Number
38:1-1939

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record createdMay 14, 2014
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