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Short poem

Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

In Memoriam A. H. H. OBIIT MDCCCXXXIII: 95

              1By night we linger'd on the lawn,
              2      For underfoot the herb was dry;
              3      And genial warmth; and o'er the sky
              4The silvery haze of summer drawn;

              5And calm that let the tapers burn
              6      Unwavering: not a cricket chirr'd:
              7      The brook alone far-off was heard,
              8And on the board the fluttering urn:

              9And bats went round in fragrant skies,
            10      And wheel'd or lit the filmy shapes
            11      That haunt the dusk, with ermine capes
            12And woolly breasts and beaded eyes;

            13While now we sang old songs that peal'd
            14      From knoll to knoll, where, couch'd at ease,
            15      The white kine glimmer'd, and the trees
            16Laid their dark arms about the field.

            17But when those others, one by one,
            18      Withdrew themselves from me and night,
            19      And in the house light after light
            20Went out, and I was all alone,

            21A hunger seized my heart; I read
            22      Of that glad year which once had been,
            23      In those fall'n leaves which kept their green,
            24The noble letters of the dead:

            25And strangely on the silence broke
            26      The silent-speaking words, and strange
            27      Was love's dumb cry defying change
            28To test his worth; and strangely spoke

            29The faith, the vigour, bold to dwell
            30      On doubts that drive the coward back,
            31      And keen thro' wordy snares to track
            32Suggestion to her inmost cell.

            33So word by word, and line by line,
            34      The dead man touch'd me from the past,
            35      And all at once it seem'd at last
            36The living soul was flash'd on mine,

            37And mine in this was wound, and whirl'd
            38      About empyreal heights of thought,
            39      And came on that which is, and caught
            40The deep pulsations of the world,

            41Æonian music measuring out
            42      The steps of Time--the shocks of Chance--
            43      The blows of Death. At length my trance
            44Was cancell'd, stricken thro' with doubt.

            45Vague words! but ah, how hard to frame
            46      In matter-moulded forms of speech,
            47      Or ev'n for intellect to reach
            48Thro' memory that which I became:

            49Till now the doubtful dusk reveal'd
            50      The knolls once more where, couch'd at ease,
            51      The white kine glimmer'd, and the trees
            52Laid their dark arms about the field:

            53And suck'd from out the distant gloom
            54      A breeze began to tremble o'er
            55      The large leaves of the sycamore,
            56And fluctuate all the still perfume,

            57And gathering freshlier overhead,
            58      Rock'd the full-foliaged elms, and swung
            59      The heavy-folded rose, and flung
            60The lilies to and fro, and said

            61"The dawn, the dawn," and died away;
            62      And East and West, without a breath,
            63      Mixt their dim lights, like life and death,
            64To broaden into boundless day.


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 im."
OBIIT MDCCCXXXIII: he died in 1833.

41] Æonian music: music of the æons transcending the phenomenal world of time and matter, and harmonizing its conflicts.

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 3.71.
Recent editing: 2:2002/2/14

Rhyme: abba

Other poems by Alfred Lord Tennyson