"Let Us Hob-and-nob With Death"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: In this dream-vision, Tennyson, who was greatly concerned with the doctrine of art-for-art's-sake, shows that the poet interested only in immorality and thus turning from the true calling of the soul is consumed by his own desire. The poem is presented in two parts and a cryptic summary. The young poet rides into a drunken orgy in a palace where the sensual music finally becomes so frenzied that his ability to sing is killed. Then the vision shifts to a senile debauch in a ruined tavern where self-inflicted misery leads to the desire to die. Both selfish pathways end in emotional frenzy, not happiness or peace. At the end of the poem Tennyson insinuates that the only way to true art and thus to genuine joy is through God; however, this way is often obscure because the voice of God cannot always be clearly understood. The quotation comes from the tavern scene where the old man sings of his search for sensation and his disillusionment.

Slip-shod waiter, lank and sour,
At the Dragon on the heath!
Let us have a quiet hour,
Let us hob-and-nob with Death.
I am old, but let me drink;
Bring me spices, bring me wine;
I remember, when I think,
That my youth was half divine.