This excerpt is part of the long poem, ‘In Memoriam A.H.H.,’ and is specifically labeled as Section CXV. This section of the piece explores spring and renewal, likely alluding to Tennyson’s growing feelings of acceptance as he comes to terms with Arthur Henry Hallam’s death.
Now fades the last long streak of snow Alfred Lord TennysonNow fades the last long streak of snow, Now burgeons every maze of quick About the flowering squares, and thickBy ashen roots the violets blow.Now rings the woodland loud and long, The distance takes a lovelier hue, And drown'd in yonder living blueThe lark becomes a sightless song.Now dance the lights on lawn and lea, The flocks are whiter down the vale, And milkier every milky sailOn winding stream or distant sea;Where now the seamew pipes, or dives In yonder greening gleam, and fly The happy birds, that change their skyTo build and brood; that live their livesFrom land to land; and in my breast Spring wakens too; and my regret Becomes an April violet,And buds and blossoms like the rest.
Explore Now fades the last long streak of snow
‘Now fades the last long streak of snow’ by Alfred Lord Tennyson is a reflection of the changing seasons. It focuses on the transition from winter to spring.
It begins with the last remnants of snow fading and new life burgeoning in the form of flowers and greenery. Through the poet’s imagery, he describes how the sounds and sights of nature transform. This includes the song of the lark. Each stanza is devoted to different aspects of this transformation, weaving together a rich tapestry of renewal.
In the final stanza, Tennyson introduces a personal element, linking the rebirth of nature with his own emotional rejuvenation.
Structure and Form
‘Now fades the last long streak of snow’ by Alfred Lord Tennyson is a six-stanza poem that is divided into sets of four lines, known as quatrains. These quatrains follow a rhyme scheme of ABBA and use iambic tetrameter. This is a rhyme scheme known as the “In Memoriam” stanza, named for this specific poem.
The stanzas of this piece are structured to describe different aspects of this transformation. The first speaks about the melting snow and the flowers beginning to bloom. The second goes on to describe the woods, and the third the landscape.
In this poem, the poet uses a few different literary devices. These include but are not limited to:
- Imagery: occurs when the poet uses sense-related images. For example, “Now fades the last long streak of snow.”
- Metaphor: Tennyson uses metaphor to connect the natural world to human emotions, these are comparisons that don’t use “like” or “as.” His own feelings of regret are likened to an April violet, suggesting a transformation and rebirth.
- Personification: This can be seen when the poet uses human-specific descriptions to depict something non-human. For example, spring is given human characteristics as it “wakens” in the poet’s breast.
Now fades the last long streak of snow,
Now burgeons every maze of quick
About the flowering squares, and thick
By ashen roots the violets blow.
In the first stanza, the poet describes the fading of the last streak of snow. This signifies the end of winter as well as the possibility of the passing of sorrow/hardship.
This gives way to the burgeoning of mazes of quick, or the sprouting of hedges and shrubs, and the blowing of violets by ashen roots. This helps readers to imagine new growth emerging from the winter. The musical quality of the stanza is heightened by the alliteration in phrases like “streak of snow.”
Now rings the woodland loud and long,
The distance takes a lovelier hue,
And drown’d in yonder living blue
The lark becomes a sightless song.
The next stanza builds on the theme of renewal and transformation. The auditory imagery of the woodland ringing “loud and long” gives the clear impression of life exploding with sound. The world is changing around the speaker, with the “distance” taking a “lovelier hue.”
The poet is even inspired to describe the bird’s melody merging with the sky, becoming something ethereal.
Now dance the lights on lawn and lea,
The flocks are whiter down the vale,
And milkier every milky sail
On winding stream or distant sea;
The next stanza shifts to a dance of lights on the lawn, where everything appears to be in motion. The world is full of energy in these lines. The poet also notes the whiteness of the flocks and the milkiness of the sails/ This is likely meant to emphasize purity and freshness.
Where now the seamew pipes, or dives
In yonder greening gleam, and fly
The happy birds, that change their sky
To build and brood; that live their lives
In the next few lines, the poet describes the “seamew” (a type of seabird). The description of the seamew diving “in yonder greening gleam” connects to the image of life renewed from the previous lines. The image of the sky and sea is continued with the poet describing the birds as “happy” to build their nests and have babies. They live their lives simply.
The constant change and adaptability of the birds reflect a universal truth about life’s cyclical nature.
From land to land; and in my breast
Spring wakens too; and my regret
Becomes an April violet,
And buds and blossoms like the rest.
In this stand, the poet continues similarly to the previous lines. He describes the lands stretching off across the earth awakening with the spring season, and the season is also flourishing in his breast or his chest.
The stanza ends with an interesting image of the poet’s regret. He uses a metaphor to describe how his regret “becomes an April violet.” The poet’s regret transforms into something beautiful and alive. This metaphor encapsulates the essence of growth. It suggests that something that was once a negative feeling can be turned into something more beautiful.
This poem is one of a series of lyric poems that together form an elegy, ‘In Memoriam A.H.H.’ Tennyson uses the same structure throughout these poems, something that’s come to be known as “In Memoriam” stanzas.
‘In Memoriam A.H.H.’ was written in memory of the poet’s friend, Arthur Henry Hallam, who died suddenly when both men were quite young. It was composed over 17 years and explores themes of loss, faith, despair, and eventual acceptance.
This section contributes to the overarching themes of grief, transformation, renewal, and acceptance found throughout ‘In Memoriam A.H.H.’ The shift from winter to spring symbolizes the movement from sorrow to consolation.
Readers who enjoyed this poem might also want to read some other Alfred Lord Tennyson poems. For example:
- ‘Tithonus‘ – describes the plight of Tithonus, who is cursed to an immortal life in which he continues to age.
- ‘The Eagle’ – is a powerful poem that captures the majesty and strength of the majestic bird, inspiring readers to reach for the heights of their own potential.
- ‘The Kraken’ – describes the slumbering bulk of the Kraken, its eventual rise to the surface of the sea, and resulting death.