“…rest ye, brother mariners, we will not wander more.”

“…rest ye, brother mariners, we will not wander more.”

alfred lord tennyson, tennyson, the lotos eaters, victorian poets, poet laureate, odyssey, odysseus, believe to be beautifulI recently bought a bundle of antique books which included this 1851 reissue of the 1830 edition of Tennyson’s ‘Poems’. With a beautifully tooled and gilded leather cover, the book is filled with engravings from renowned practitioners of the day. These include the Dalziel Brothers who reproduced illustrations from the works of contemporary artists including John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rosetti and William Holman Hunt, for what was  then a rapidly expanding book and magazine market.

Thumbing through the book in search of Millais’s artworks, I came across a small piece of antique, floral silk marking ‘The Lotos Eaters’. This poem retells the part of Homer’s Odyssey in which Odysseus happens upon a remote island and goes ashore to take on water. Finding a placid, apathetic people who welcome them with fruit from the Lotus Tree, the ship’s crew are quickly effected by the narcotic sweetness of the strange produce and with “half-shut eyes”, begin to dream of foregoing their journey and their former lives, uttering only the repeated refrain “Let us alone”.  tennyson, tennysons poems, the lotos eaters, silk damask, poetry, victorian silk, victorian poets, antique books, believe to be beautiful,

As the ribbon bookmark is also within the pages of this poem, I couldn’t help but wonder if the little remnant of fabric came from the silk waistcoat of a lover gone overseas to make his fortune. And, perhaps, wondering why he had not returned, but not wanting to believe that he had succumbed to a tropical illness, the book’s owner consoled herself with the thought that he and his fellow travellers had simply got lost “in the hollow Lotos-land to live and lie reclined, on the hills like Gods together, careless of mankind”.

If you are interested in reading The Lotos Eaters in full, I currently have a later anthology available and you can find out more about the condition and price by clicking this link  – and if you want to comment on this or any other aspect of the website then please do get in touch via the Contacts page.