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Short poem

Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

In Memoriam A. H. H. OBIIT MDCCCXXXIII: 56

              1"So careful of the type?" but no.
              2      From scarped cliff and quarried stone
              3      She cries, "A thousand types are gone:
              4I care for nothing, all shall go.

              5"Thou makest thine appeal to me:
              6      I bring to life, I bring to death:
              7      The spirit does but mean the breath:
              8I know no more." And he, shall he,

              9Man, her last work, who seem'd so fair,
            10      Such splendid purpose in his eyes,
            11      Who roll'd the psalm to wintry skies,
            12Who built him fanes of fruitless prayer,

            13Who trusted God was love indeed
            14      And love Creation's final law--
            15      Tho' Nature, red in tooth and claw
            16With ravine, shriek'd against his creed--

            17Who loved, who suffer'd countless ills,
            18      Who battled for the True, the Just,
            19      Be blown about the desert dust,
            20Or seal'd within the iron hills?

            21No more? A monster then, a dream,
            22      A discord. Dragons of the prime,
            23      That tare each other in their slime,
            24Were mellow music match'd with him.

            25O life as futile, then, as frail!
            26      O for thy voice to soothe and bless!
            27      What hope of answer, or redress?
            28Behind the veil, behind the veil.


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.
type: species. This lyric, like the preceding one, reflects Tennyson's reading in Lyell's Principles of Geology (1839-33).

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 3.68.
Recent editing: 2:2002/2/14

Rhyme: abba

Other poems by Alfred Lord Tennyson