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Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

In Memoriam A. H. H. OBIIT MDCCCXXXIII: 3


              1O Sorrow, cruel fellowship,
              2      O Priestess in the vaults of Death,
              3      O sweet and bitter in a breath,
              4What whispers from thy lying lip?

              5"The stars," she whispers, "blindly run;
              6      A web is wov'n across the sky;
              7      From out waste places comes a cry,
              8And murmurs from the dying sun:

              9"And all the phantom, Nature, stands--
            10      With all the music in her tone,
            11      A hollow echo of my own,--
            12A hollow form with empty hands."

            13And shall I take a thing so blind,
            14      Embrace her as my natural good;
            15      Or crush her, like a vice of blood,
            16Upon the threshold of the mind?

Notes

1] First published anonymously in the volume with this title in 1850, though the 131 sections or separate poems that compose it were written and rewritten from 1833 to the time of publication. Two of the 131 sections were added in later editions: LIX in 1851, and XXXIX in 1872. The poem is in memory of Tennyson's friend Arthur Henry Hallam, son of the eminent historian. Hallam was engaged to marry Tennyson's sister Emily, when he died suddenly of a stroke in Vienna on September 15, 1833, at the age of twenty-two. Although written without any plan at first, the parts of the poem were finally arranged in a pattern to cover the period of about three years following Hallam's death. Tennyson himself insisted that it is "a poem, not a biography .... The different moods of sorrow as in a drama are dramatically given, and my conviction that fear, doubts, and suffering will find answer and relief only through Faith in a God of Love. `I' is not always the author speaking of himself, but the voice of the human race speaking through him."
OBIIT MDCCCXXXIII: he died in 1833.

5] The stars: As A. N. Whitehead stated in Science and the Modern World (96): "This line states starkly the whole philosophic problem implicit in the poem .... It is the problem of mechanism which appals him."


Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Alfred lord Tennyson, In Memoriam (London: E. Moxon, 1850). PR 5562 A1 1850 Victoria College Library (Toronto). Alfred lord Tennyson, Works (London: Macmillan, 1891). tenn T366 A1 1891a Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto).
First publication date: 1850
RPO poem editor: H. M. McLuhan
RP edition: 3RP 3.63.
Recent editing: 2:2002/2/14

Rhyme: abba


Other poems by Alfred Lord Tennyson