‘In Memoriam A.H.H.’ – Alfred, Lord Tennyson

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Alfred, Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam

Alfred, Lord
Tennyson’s poem, In Memoriam A.H.H. (also known simply as
In Memoriam), was nominated by Joanne Soulsby, a sixth form
student attending the Sutton Trust Summer School in Cambridge, who
says that as a description of dealing with loss and grief, it remains
relevant today.

Tennyson wrote
this series of poems in 1833, out of sadness at the death of his friend,
Arthur Hallam, and published them in 1850.

There are 133
poems in the sequence: this is number 54.

Oh yet we trust that somehow good

Will be the final goal of ill,

To pangs of nature, sins of will,

Defects of doubt, and taints of blood;

That nothing walks with aimless feet;

That not one life shall be destroy’d,

Or cast as rubbish to the void,

When God hath made the pile complete;

That not a worm is cloven in vain;

That not a moth with vain desire

Is shrivell’d in a fruitless fire,

Or but subserves another’s gain.

Behold, we know not anything;

I can but trust that good shall fall

At last – far off – at last, to all,

And every winter change to spring.

So runs my dream: but what am I?

An infant crying in the night:

An infant crying for the light:

And with no language but a cry.

Further Reading

Tennyson is a poet of the Victorian period. He was born in 1809 and died in 1892, and in 1850 (on the death of Wordsworth), the popularity with Prince Albert of his poem, In Memoriam, earned him the post of poet laureate.

He was a prolific poet, and wrote a number of long poems, many of them on legendary or mythical subjects, such as ‘Ulysses’, ‘Tithonus’ and Idylls of the King, a sequence of long poems about King Arthur that he wrote after the death of Prince Albert in 1861. He is also well known for a number of shorter poems including ‘Maud’, ‘Break, break, break’, and ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’.

If you want to read other poets of the same period, you could try Robert Browning, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, or Matthew Arnold. Gerard Manley Hopkins is a very different poet from Tennyson: he writes usually much shorter and more intense poems, often on the themes of religion and nature, but he comes from the same period as Tennyson and might provide an interesting contrast.

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