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Short poem

Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

In Memoriam A. H. H. OBIIT MDCCCXXXIII: 96

              1You say, but with no touch of scorn,
              2      Sweet-hearted, you, whose light-blue eyes
              3      Are tender over drowning flies,
              4You tell me, doubt is Devil-born.

              5I know not: one indeed I knew
              6      In many a subtle question versed,
              7      Who touch'd a jarring lyre at first,
              8But ever strove to make it true:

              9Perplext in faith, but pure in deeds,
            10      At last he beat his music out.
            11      There lives more faith in honest doubt,
            12Believe me, than in half the creeds.

            13He fought his doubts and gather'd strength,
            14      He would not make his judgment blind,
            15      He faced the spectres of the mind
            16And laid them: thus he came at length

            17To find a stronger faith his own;
            18      And Power was with him in the night,
            19      Which makes the darkness and the light,
            20And dwells not in the light alone,

            21But in the darkness and the cloud,
            22      As over Sinaï's peaks of old,
            23      While Israel made their gods of gold,
            24Altho' the trumpet blew so loud.


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.

21] darkness and cloud: Exodus 19: 16-25, and 32: 1-8.

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 3.72.
Recent editing: 2:2002/2/14

Rhyme: abba

Other poems by Alfred Lord Tennyson