Music and Meaning (8): One Music of ‘Mind and Soul’ in In Memoriam (1850)

Let knowledge grow from more to more,
But more of reverence in us dwell;
That mind and soul, according well,
May make one music as before,
But vaster.

How do you think these lines, from the seventh and eight stanzas of the Prologue to In Memoriam relate to everything we've so far considered concerning Music and Meaning in Tennyson? How does Tennyson suggest this 'one music' might be made, and what do you think he means?

In Memoriam - the most famous of Tennyson's poems - is a tribute to Tennyson's Cambridge friend Arthur Henry Hallam, who suddenly died of cerebral haemorrhage in Vienna, 1833. As is clear from the above quotation, this 131-part poem also tackles some much broader questions concerning nineteenth century religion and science (for more information on these issues see the 'Tennyson in Context' section of the website).

Keeping in mind what Tennyson says about letting 'knowledge grow from more to more' in the poem's 'Prologue', let's now take a look at the opening stanzas of the first part of poem itself:

I held it truth, with him who sings
To one clear harp in divers tones,
That men may rise on stepping-stones
Of their dead selves to higher things.
But who shall so forecast the years
And find in loss a gain to match?
Or reach a hand thro' time to catch
The far-off interest of tears.

If Tennyson is saying - in this first part of the poem - that he no longer believes 'men may rise on stepping stones... to higher things', do you think this complicates his hope that knowledge may 'grow from more to more' and make a 'vaster' music than before? Over the next few web-pages, we'll consider what In Memoriam might be suggesting both about the relation between faith and form (forms of religious faith on the one hand, and literary form on the other) and about the nature of language.

[Go on to Music and Meaning (9): 'Measured Language' and In Memoriam (1850)]

Comments are closed.