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The Brook (excerpt) -- Alfred, Lord Tennyson

(Poem #80) The Brook (excerpt)
 `O babbling brook,' says Edmund in his rhyme,
 `Whence come you?' and the brook, why not? replies.

     I come from haunts of coot and hern,
     I make a sudden sally,
     And sparkle out among the fern,
     To bicker down a valley.

     By thirty hills I hurry down,
     Or slip between the ridges,
     By twenty thorps, a little town,
     And half a hundred bridges.

     Till last by Philip's farm I flow
     To join the brimming river,
     For men may come and men may go,
     But I go on for ever.

 `Poor lad, he died at Florence, quite worn out,
 Travelling to Naples. There is Darnley bridge,
 It has more ivy; there the river; and there
 Stands Philip's farm where brook and river meet.

     I chatter over stony ways,
     In little sharps and trebles,
     I bubble into eddying bays,
     I babble on the pebbles.

     With many a curve my banks I fret
     By many a field and fallow,
     And many a fairy foreland set
     With willow-weed and mallow.

     I chatter, chatter, as I flow
     To join the brimming river,
     For men may come and men may go,
     But I go on for ever.

 `But Philip chatter'd more than brook or bird;
 Old Philip; all about the fields you caught
 His weary daylong chirping, like the dry
 High-elbow'd grigs that leap in summer grass. [grig = cricket - m.]

     I wind about, and in and out,
     With here a blossom sailing,
     And here and there a lusty trout,
     And here and there a grayling,

     And here and there a foamy flake
     Upon me, as I travel
     With many a silvery waterbreak
     Above the golden gravel,

     And draw them all along, and flow
     To join the brimming river,
     For men may come and men may go,
     But I go on for ever.
-- Alfred, Lord Tennyson
        Full poem at
        <[broken link]>
        Reproduced from the English Poetry Full-Text Database Copyright (c)
        [1992-1995] Chadwyck-Healey Ltd.

This is a wonderfully lyrical poem, even for Tennyson - in places it verges
on pure music. In fact, it is hardly necessary to 'understand' it - just let
the images and beautifully patterned rhythms flow past, evoking the babbling
brook. I could go through this excerpt line by line, saying exactly what I
like about each one, but if this isn't a poem that should speak for itself,
I don't know what is. In passing, though - it has immortalized the phrase
'babbling brook', enshrining it so thoroughly into the language that even
those who have never heard of Tennyson would apply no other adjective.

m. (Happy Star Wars day! [1])

[1] May the 4th...

58 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

santanu.chari said...

This poem takes me back to my English Class, X Std. where we would read from
Panorama: A collection of Poems (ICSE). We grew up to mug, recite and
eventually love these poems. Probably the most important reason why I like
this one.

It's very jolly and bouncy. One can read it aloud and feel the Rhyme and
Rhythm. Its as if The Brook's woken up at dawn and is hopping along towards
the river for a bath.

Not to forget the spirit of the refrain:
"For men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever. "

Santanu Chari

Ross & Mitch Graham said...

I had a wonderful teacher in about fourth class primary who taught us this poem . I used to be able to recite at least some of it - perhaps all.

This is the first time in 38 years that I have found it again.The pleasure & memory are hard to put into words.

Gomati Ramachandran said...

This is such a lovely poem.. captures and brings to mind so much of romance and imagination..

Takes away so much of stress from my mind.., brings so much of life into me and a fascination for bringing it to life in my life..don't know how to though..

I tried painting my feelings on this poem.., but was not satisfied..


Chainani Shailendra said...

I would like a copy of this book "Panorama: A collection of poems". Does
anyone know where I can get one? or the name of the publisher.
Shailendra Chainani

Alicia Vennos said...


How delighted I was to find this excerpt of "The Brook"! My father-in-law
is 81 and remembers this more extensive version of the poem, which he
memorized in third grade in Saskatchewan, Canada! He asked me to try and
find him a copy of it and after two hours on the Internet, your site was the
only one I found with the longer version. I am not a "member or subscriber"
so could not access the full copy of the poem...please let me know how I
might do that? I live in a small town about 5 hours from the closest
city/university so I don't have access to an excellent library, either.

Many thanks for your assistance.


Sashi C said...

Hello Santanu

My name is Sashi. I came upon your note about Panorama: A Collection of Poems(ICSE). I was a ICSE student myself and I couldn't agree more.
I was wondering if you remember a poem called 'Simon Snoot's Whiskers'. We had this poem in the eighth grade, but I can't recall the poet's name. The poem is about Simon's whiskers, which he dearly loves and cares for, but, eventually a goat eats them.
I've tried searching for it on the net unsuccessfully. Can you please let me know if you know of any site where I can find it.
Thanks a bunch and have a great day. :-)

Stephen Marshall said...

A Question::

What was "Philip's Farm" and another question...

What is "O babbling brook from?"

Any response is welcome.

SNM in Syracuse

Johann Du Plessis said...

I too am looking for the poem about Simon Snoot. Please let me know where I can find it as I have searched the internet thoroughly, but with no results.

vachher said...

I've been searching for long for a mention of Panorama - a collection of poems. i was a student of ICSE and just cannot forget the romance and fragrance of some of the poems. Our English teacher, Mrs. Seymour made those poems memorable for us.

St. Patricks Junior College

Vinita Unny said...


I got your email on the web when I ran a search on
"Simon Snoot's Whiskers". I went to an ICSE school as
well and actually recited that poem in an elocution
competition to win first place. I noticed that you
has asked someone about it.....did you ever find it?
If you did can you email it to me.

Thank you

Andrew McCarthy said...

This poem is not just a poem it is a limnological thesis, I used it in my final degree exam in 1969, try feeling it as a stream. The biology is fantastic.

andrew mccarthy

an aged biology teacher

TJ Pannu said...

I also had this poem in the 10th standard, sometime in 1994. I never thought
sitting in the class listening to a poem about a brook thousands of miles
away written at least a hundred years before my time. It appeared to me
about a subject, the brook that was completely alien to me. But the words of
the poem today bring joy of the days gone by, the days of my childhood back
home in India.

Roger Pelizzari said...

I am Roger Pelizzari and I commented a while ago on Tennyson's The
My comment is the last one. Is it possible for you to erase my full
name from it
and substitute my initials, RP.

If not, can you erase the comment completely?

Thanks much,

Roger Pelizzari

Janet Hodgkins said...

My memory jogged by a recent conversation, I remember about 60 years ago having to write out the recurring verse: I chatter, chatter as I flow to may come, and men may go but I go on forever. I found myself all alone laughing heartily at the memory, but didn't know it's source. I got out of bed to right this ignorance at 1:00 a.m. I don't know how many times I had to write it. It was obviously a sufficient number that I have never forgotten it. Did it cure the chattering? Absolutely not!

Shantanu Chatterjee said...

This is the poem my dad used to recite for me in my childhood days. As
far as i can remember it is the first poem i ever heard in my life. and
it really touched me. Even since i lost him a few months back i have
been searching for this poem am so glad to find it here. it makes me
feel so close to my day as if he is still sitting next to me and
reciting it. all the memories come rushing back at me and make me very

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Dr. Raja Datta said...

Could you tell me the name of the publisher of 'Panorama' and where can we get a copy from.
Dr. Raja Datta.

Andrea Callow said...

Did anyone ever have an answer to your question about where "O babbling
brook" is from? Spencer poem?

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CJ said...

I read this book of poems as a part of my 10th grade ICSE in the mid 80s. Although it had great poems of Longfellow, Shelley, Eliot etc, but the one liked the best was by Tagore: Where the mind is without fear.

Anonymous said...

gr8 poem

VJ said...

Hi CJ,

Like favourite too was Tagore's "Where the mind is without fear...", although it was closely followed by Kiplings "East is east, and west is west....". I too did my ICSE in the 80's, 1984 to be precise...Panorama - really brings back extremely fond memories of the childhood days spent in Delhi....nostalgia is very good for the soul, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

this was my one of the favourite poem........i cant forget it....i studied in r.s.k!!!!!!!

kaaviya said...

this one of my favourite poem!!!!! i cant forget it ever in life..........when i was first hearing this poem,i am really exited and attracted of this one!!

p s said...

awesome poem

Addy... said...

The poem's truly enchantin'....
but hey....can any1 post its central idea??

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William Sommerwerck said...

Unfortunately, it sounds like something that //should// have been parodied in "Bullwinkle's Corner", but Ward & friends never got around to it.

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Anonymous said...

Did anyone find the book Panorama?Online or Offline version? Is it still used in ICSE schools?

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