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Short poem

Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

In Memoriam A. H. H. OBIIT MDCCCXXXIII: 44

              1How fares it with the happy dead?
              2      For here the man is more and more;
              3      But he forgets the days before
              4God shut the doorways of his head.

              5The days have vanish'd, tone and tint,
              6      And yet perhaps the hoarding sense
              7      Gives out at times (he knows not whence)
              8A little flash, a mystic hint;

              9And in the long harmonious years
            10      (If Death so taste Lethean springs),
            11      May some dim touch of earthly things
            12Surprise thee ranging with thy peers.

            13If such a dreamy touch should fall,
            14      O turn thee round, resolve the doubt;
            15      My guardian angel will speak out
            16In that high place, and tell thee all.


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.
Tennyson said, "The dead after this life may have no remembrance of life, like the living babe who forgets the time before the sutures of the skull are closed, yet the living babe grows in knowledge ...; with his increasing knowledge there comes a dreamy vision of what has been; it may be so with the dead."

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 3.66.
Recent editing: 2:2002/2/14

Rhyme: abba

Other poems by Alfred Lord Tennyson