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"Airy, Fairy Lilian"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: In this early poem by Tennyson, the speaker is fascinated by Lilian's "black-beaded eyes," "lightning laughters," and "gaiety without eclipse." She is light and frivolous and only teases him. Yet this very light and flitting quality "wearieth" her admirer as time passes and she fails to return his love. Her coyness and laughter soon irritate him to the point that in the final stanza he asserts that "If prayers will not hush thee,/ Airy Lilian,/ Like a rose-leaf I will crush thee."

Airy, fairy Lilian
Flitting, fairy Lilian,
When I ask her if she loves me,
Claps her tiny hands above me,
Laughing all she can;
She'll not tell me if she love me,
Cruel little Lilian.