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Short poem

Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

In Memoriam A. H. H. OBIIT MDCCCXXXIII: 118

              1Contemplate all this work of Time,
              2      The giant labouring in his youth;
              3      Nor dream of human love and truth,
              4As dying Nature's earth and lime;

              5But trust that those we call the dead
              6      Are breathers of an ampler day
              7      For ever nobler ends. They say,
              8The solid earth whereon we tread

              9In tracts of fluent heat began,
            10      And grew to seeming-random forms,
            11      The seeming prey of cyclic storms,
            12Till at the last arose the man;

            13Who throve and branch'd from clime to clime,
            14      The herald of a higher race,
            15      And of himself in higher place,
            16If so he type this work of time

            17Within himself, from more to more;
            18      Or, crown'd with attributes of woe
            19      Like glories, move his course, and show
            20That life is not as idle ore,

            21But iron dug from central gloom,
            22      And heated hot with burning fears,
            23      And dipt in baths of hissing tears,
            24And batter'd with the shocks of doom

            25To shape and use. Arise and fly
            26      The reeling Faun, the sensual feast;
            27      Move upward, working out the beast,
            28And let the ape and tiger die.


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.

2] giant: Chronos, "time," confused in mythology with the Titan giant, Cronus. The confusion does not affect Tennyson's meaning, since the cosmos produced by the evolutionary process can be thought of as immense, as a product of time, and as having vast further developments in store in the future--hence as the work of "the giant labouring in his youth."

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 3.75.
Recent editing: 2:2002/2/14

Rhyme: abba

Other poems by Alfred Lord Tennyson