Three on a Tower Presentation

Helen’s Tower
Northern Ireland
Designed by the
architect William
Burn (17891870) in the
‘Baronial’ style
Begun 1848,
completed 1861
Alfred Tennyson, ‘Helen’s Tower’ (1861)
Helen’s Tower, here I stand,
Dominant over sea and land.
Son’s love built me, and I hold
Mother’s love engraved in gold.
Love is in and out of time,
I am mortal stone and lime.
Would my granite girth were strong
As either love, to last as long!
I should wear my crown entire
To and thro’ the Doomsday fire,
And be found of angel eyes
In earth’s recurring Paradise.
4. engraved in gold] in lettered gold (1884)
5-6.] These lines were already present in two of the three MSS which Tennyson sent
to Lord Dufferin in Oct. 1861, but do not appear on the original plate; they were
added to the published text in 1884.
Helen, Lady Dufferin
Frontispiece to Songs,
Poems, & Verses by
Helen, Lady Dufferin
London: John Murray,
Helen Blackwood (Lady Dufferin)
To My Dear Son, on his 21st Birthday, with a Silver Lamp, on which was
Engraved “Fiat Lux” (1847)
How shall I bless thee? Human love
Is all too poor in passionate words;
The heart aches with a sense above
All language that the lip affords:
Therefore a symbol shall express
My love,—a thing not rare or strange
But yet—eternal—measureless—
Knowing no shadow and no change.
Light! which, of all the lovely shows
To our poor world of shadows given,
The fervent Prophet-voices chose
Alone as attribute of heaven!
At a most solemn pause we stand:
From this day forth, for evermore,
The weak but loving human hand
Must cease to guide thee as of yore.
Then, as thro’ life thy footsteps stray,
And earthly beacons dimly shine,
“Let there be light” upon thy way,
And holier guidance far than mine!
“Let there be light” in thy clear soul,
When passion tempts and doubts assail;
When grief’s dark tempests o’er thee roll,
“Let there be light” that shall not fail!
So, Angel guarded, may’st thou tread
The narrow path which few may find,
And at the end look back, nor dread
To count the vanished years behind!
And pray that she, whose hand doth trace
This heart-warm prayer,—when life is past—
May see and know thy blessed face,
In God’s own glorious light at last!
I should be sorry, even were I able, to rival the beautiful verses which are fitly
engraved on gold: here is the best I can do, however. You must not forget that I
enjoyed—though too rarely—the privilege of seeing the face I speak of,—and I have in
mind one especial and gracious piece of kindness shown to a little Italian boy of my
Letter to Lord Dufferin enclosing ‘Helen’s Tower’, 27 April 1870
Just think of little Alessandro, the red-headed boy Peni liked so to play with, coming
here on a visit,—to his grandmother who lives at Highgate!
Letter to Isa Blagden, 19 June 1862
There was no compliment in what I said about the singularly love-inducing lady.
Letter to F. J. Furnivall, 24 Dec. 1883
I knew the lady and have not flattered her.
Letter to Mrs Bronson [Katharine de Kay Bronson] 27 Jan. 1884
Robert Browning, ‘Helen’s Tower’ (1870)
Έλένη έπί πύϱγφ
Who hears of Helen’s Tower may dream perchance
How the Greek Beauty from the Scæan Gate
Gazed on old friends unanimous in hate,
Death-doomed because of her fair countenance.
Hearts would leap otherwise at thy advance,
Lady, to whom this Tower is consecrate!
Like hers, thy face once made all eyes elate,
Yet, unlike hers, was blessed by every glance.
The Tower of Hate is outworn, far and strange:
A transitory shame of long ago,
It dies into the sand from which it sprang:
But thine, Love’s rock-built Tower, shall fear no change:
God’s self laid stable earth’s foundations so,
When all the morning stars together sang.
Mr. Tennyson having made public the lines which he wrote, at Lord Dufferin’s
request, for “Helen’s Tower,” erected by him to the memory of his late mother ...
Mr. Browning has consented to the publication of his verses on the same
occasion, and written at the like request, made to him after it had been made to
Mr. Tennyson. The difference in treatment of the same subject by the two poets
will, we are sure, interest our readers.
Pall Mall Gazette, 28 Dec. 1883, p. 2 (almost certainly written by, or
heavily reliant on, F. J. Furnivall)
Thoor Ballylee, near Gort, Co. Galway
Two images of the ‘winding stair’ in Thoor Ballylee
Sources: left
[untitled inscription]
I, the poet William Yeats,
With old millboards and
sea-green slates,
And smithy work from
the Gort forge
Restored this tower
for my wife George.
And may these characters
When all is ruin once again.
To be Carved on a Stone at Thoor
I, the poet William Yeats,
With old mill boards and sea-green slates,
And smithy work from the Gort forge,
Restored this tower for my wife George;
And may these characters remain
When all is ruin once again.
[concluding poem in Michael Robartes
and the Dancer, 1921; text from Collected
Poems, 1933]
A Meditation in Time of Civil War
For one throb of the artery,
While on that old grey stone I sat
Under the old wind-broken tree,
I knew that One was animate,
Mankind inanimate phantasy.
To be Carved on a Stone at Thoor Ballylee
I, the poet William Yeats,
With old mill boards and sea-green slates,
And smithy work from the Gort forge,
Restored this tower for my wife George.
And may these characters remain
When all is ruin once again.
Sequence of poems at end of Michael Robartes
and the Dancer
5* hotels are all well and good but if you want a break with a difference, in which you
can live out your Rapunzel fantasies, then you need somewhere a bit more unique.
Helen's Tower in the Clandeboye Estate, Bangor will be perfect. . . . Inside you'll find
a double bedroom, shower room, fully-equipped kitchen, living room and a reading room
- all of which have been restored where appropriate to give you a taste of how the tower
would have stood following its completion in October 1861. During that time the tower
has even inspired works of poetry.
Helen’s Tower and the Ulster Tower at Thiepval
Inside the Ulster Tower at Thiepval. The inscription running around the four walls reads:
“Helen’s Tower, here I stand / Dominant over sea and land. / Sons’ love built me and I hold /
Ulster’s love in lettered gold”—adapting Tennyson’s poem by converting singular Son’s to
plural Sons’ and substituting ‘Ulster’s love’ for ‘Mother’s love’.

similar documents