"A Happy Bridesmaid Makes A Happy Bride"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: During the wedding service the bridesmaid wept so hard that she could not see. Her sister, the bride, told her not to weep for her, as a happy bridesmaid makes a happy bride. Love himself came down between the couple at the altar and laughed at the bridesmaid, repeating what the bride had said. The speaker of the poem suddenly learns an important truth: that it was tenderness of heart that made the bridesmaid dissolve into tears. He presses her hand and his is pressed in return, and he knows that henceforth the single life is not for him. The bridesmaid was Emily Sellwood, whom Tennyson married in 1850. The wedding that inspired the poem was that of the poet's brother Charles in 1836.

O bridesmaid, ere the happy knot was tied,
Thine eyes so wept that they could hardly see;
Thy sister smiled and said, "No tears for me!
A happy bridesmaid makes a happy bride!"
And then, the couple standing side by side,
Love lighted down between them full of glee,
And over his left shoulder laughed at thee,
"O happy bridesmaid, make a happy bride."
And all at once a pleasant truth I learned,
For while the tender service made thee weep,
I loved thee for the tear thou couldst not hide,
And prest thy hand, and knew the press returned,
And thought, "My life is sick of single sleep;
O happy bridesmaid, make a happy bride!"