Study Guide

In Memoriam A.H.H. Summary

By Alfred, Lord Tennyson

In Memoriam A.H.H. Summary

Tennyson (whether it's the real-life Tennyson or a fictionalized version is up for grabs) kicks things off with a prologue that evokes Jesus as a sort of muse. Our speaker seems hopeful that there is a reason for man's existence and a bigger plan for everyone. Humans are puny in comparison to God, and that's why people grieve so much. They just can't see the larger plan and can't get enough distance to put things like the loss of human life within a greater context.

The speaker gets right to some heavy-duty mourning over a close friend's death (who we later find out is named Arthur). He re-creates in his mind how his friend's body came back to England from Italy. Tennyson moves through various stages of grief, from "calm despair" to "wild and wandering cries." Even though he sometimes regards his feelings as sins, he defends them as normal.

Next, Tennyson meditates upon the comfort he can gain from the Bible and upon how various resurrections worked there. And no—he's not talking about literally raising Arthur from the dead. Instead, it's all about considering the idea of being immortal in a Christian sense (where the good guys get to go to Heaven). He he tries to take some comfort in that, but it's hard out here for a mourner.

So, he moves on to thinking about how nature fits in with The Big Picture. Tennyson starts to struggle with finding meaning in a world that seems random and governed by uncomfortably new ideas such as the Theory of Evolution (that reference to "Nature red in tooth and claw" is one big hint that this is very much on Tenny's radar). He also struggles with the idea that God is good when he has seemingly created a world filled with human suffering.

Tennyson finally takes comfort in the idea that humans, at least, are good—like his friend Arthur, who was intelligent and really cared about people. He considers some answers to problems he previously set up and, in what we might regard as the climax of the entire poem, imagines reuniting with Arthur. He starts to feel better and lets go of some of his doubt.

Toward the end, he starts to realize that it's all about gaining knowledge, and that knowledge is one of the higher purposes of humans. He also recognizes that human beings have souls, which allows for a sort of immortality. He ends with an epilogue that celebrates the wedding of his sister. So, Tennyson has lost a dear friend, but ends up gaining a brother-in-law whom he is hopeful might be a sort of stand-in for Arthur.

  • Prologue

    Lines 1-16

    Strong Son of God, immortal Love,
      Whom we, that have not seen thy face,
      By faith, and faith alone, embrace,
    Believing where we cannot prove;

    Thine are these orbs of light and shade;
      Thou madest Life in man and brute;
      Thou madest Death; and lo, thy foot
    Is on the skull which thou hast made.

    Thou wilt not leave us in the dust:
      Thou madest man, he knows not why,
      He thinks he was not made to die;
    And thou hast made him: thou art just.

    Thou seemest human and divine,
      The highest, holiest manhood, thou.
      Our wills are ours, we know not how;
    Our wills are ours, to make them thine.

    • Right away, the speaker (we don't know who it is yet) is pulling out the heavy-hitters. This poem is addressed to the Big Guy himself: Jesus (who is also God, the creator of the universe).
    • He's also "immortal Love."
    • "We" (so perhaps we're meant to identify with the speaker here) can't see Jesus (or God), but we know he is there through faith.
    • But we can't prove it. So we're off to a bit of a shaky start.
    • Check out the assonance in the first line. Tennyson repeats some O sounds there: "Strong Son of God, immortal Love." This cool sound effect links together all of these ideas: strength, the Big Guy, immortality, and love. (Check out the "Sound Check" section for more on this, and keep an eye out for more assonance throughout the poem.)
    • The speaker starts to praise God and talks about how the sun and moon ("orbs of light and shade") belong to him.
    • God also made humans, animals—and death. Uh...wait. That escalated quickly. And if the death talk weren't freaky enough, the speaker drops an unsettling image on us: Jesus as a conqueror with his foot on a skull. So we're getting a double-whammy of death.
    • Notice the anaphora in lines 6-7 with the repetition of "Thou madest" at the beginning of each line. Yep—you'll hear more about this nifty device over in the "Sound Check" section.
    • This whole skull image is so disturbing that it literally breaks the bounds of the poem's rhythm. Line 7 ends with some enjambment
    • But the speaker doesn't dwell on that haunting image for long. He's ready to praise God again, and butters him up by noting that he won't just leave mankind dead.
    • He's too just for that. Instead, mankind is immortal. That's just the way God made us.
    • Jesus is both human and divine. In fact, this makes him the highest specimen of manhood ever.
    • The speaker notes, though, that humans still have free will, but this belongs to Jesus.
    • Okay, so far this is just a bit confusing. Let's read on to sort this out…

    Lines 17-32

    Our little systems have their day;
      They have their day and cease to be:
      They are but broken lights of thee,
    And thou, O Lord, art more than they.

    We have but faith: we cannot know;
      For knowledge is of things we see;
      And yet we trust it comes from thee,
    A beam in darkness: let it grow.

    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. We are fools and slight;
      We mock thee when we do not fear:
      But help thy foolish ones to bear;
    help thy vain worlds to bear thy light.

    • Mere mortals have systems that are puny and don't last very long. These systems are all described as "broken lights" of Jesus. That seems like an important metaphor.
    • The metaphor appears to mean that human systems (philosophy, knowledge, etc.) pale in comparison to the divine light of God, which is so much greater than human things. The speaker suggests that humans need to increase their knowledge, but they also need to be reverent.
    • He's now telling us that the mind and soul need to be united so they make one music. Knowledge and reverence need to work together. That makes sense.
    • The speaker seems to have a bit of an inferiority complex. He describes humans as fools. Well, right back atcha, buddy.
    • By not fearing God, people mock Him. He asks God to help us bear...something. This fear, maybe? He also asks the Almighty to help the "vain worlds" (meaning worlds that are really into themselves) bear God's light.
    • There's that image of light again. Darkness and light so far seem to be important, so we better pay attention to those images.

    Lines 33-44

    Forgive what seem'd my sin in me;
      What seem'd my worth since I began;
      For merit lives from man to man,
    And not from man, O Lord, to thee.

    Forgive my grief for one removed,
      Thy creature, whom I found so fair.
      I trust he lives in thee, and there
    I find him worthier to be loved.

    Forgive these wild and wandering cries,
      Confusions of a wasted youth;
      Forgive them where they fail in truth,
    And in thy wisdom make me wise. 

    • Now the speaker is asking for forgiveness for some kind of sin that seems to relate to pride. 
    • At least that's what we're guessing at this point, since he's talking about "merit" that "lives from man to man," which probably means a man's reputation that is spread from person to person.
    • As it turns out, God doesn't care too much about this.
    • He's also asking for forgiveness for grieving the death of a "fair" (meaning good-looking or nice) man. At least, it appears this guy has died, since the speaker says he now lives with God and is therefore now worthy of even more love.
    • Finally, he asks for forgiveness for his "wild and wandering" words. (Alliteration alert! Get the deets on that in the "Sound Check" section.) Our speaker feels his youth has been wasted for some reason, and hopes God will give him wisdom.
    • So, this section has functioned as a dedication to God (via Jesus). It also works as an evocation of the Muses, with Jesus as the speaker's muse.
    • We also get the hint that since he asks for forgiveness up front for all of these things, we're going to be in for some heavy-duty grieving over whoever this fair man is, and also for the speaker's confusion over something.
    • There's a date of 1849 at the end, which must be the date that Tennyson finished this section of the poem.
    • Let's tentatively call the speaker "Tennyson" for now, and hold off judgment on whether this is the real, historical Tennyson or an alter-ego. Mosey on over to the "Speaker" section for the lowdown.
  • Canto 1

    Lines 45-60

    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?

    Let Love clasp Grief lest both be drown'd,
      Let darkness keep her raven gloss:
      Ah, sweeter to be drunk with loss,
    To dance with death, to beat the ground,

    Than that the victor Hours should scorn
      The long result of love, and boast,
      "Behold the man that loved and lost,
    But all he was is overworn." 

    • Tennyson once believed that men would rise "on stepping stones" (little by little) from death to become something more.
    • He believed this along with believing in God, whom he presents in the image of someone singing to one harp with many voices. This might strike you as a significant image: music and unity  coming from many things or people (remember that reference to music in line 28?).
    • (FYI: "divers" here means "diverse," not "a group of people who like to dive.")
    • But now Tennyson is finding it difficult to find a silver lining. His grief is too much. 
    • Plus, people can't transcend time and cut out the grief in between to see what will happen. That would be a nifty trick, though. 
    • Instead, the speaker suggests that we mix love and grief (notice the capital letters—he's personifying these concepts).
    • It's better, he argues, to be all dark and goth-y and intoxicated with grief than to let time win and gloat that the guy who loved and lost just ended up worn out by it all.
    • Tennyson is definitely struggling with that old saying, "It's better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all."
  • Canto 2

    Lines 61-76

    Old Yew, which graspest at the stones
      That name the under-lying dead,
      Thy fibres net the dreamless head,
    Thy roots are wrapt about the bones.

    The seasons bring the flower again,
      And bring the firstling to the flock;
      And in the dusk of thee, the clock
    Beats out the little lives of men.

    O, not for thee the glow, the bloom,
      Who changest not in any gale,
      Nor branding summer suns avail
    To touch thy thousand years of gloom:

    And gazing on thee, sullen tree,
      Sick for thy stubborn hardihood,
      I seem to fail from out my blood
    And grow incorporate into thee.

    • Tennyson now addresses an old yew tree that grows over some headstones. Its roots are wrapping around the dead man's head and bones—creepy.
    • The seasons will allow the tree to flower again, while the clock counts the hours of puny men.
    • There's a neat juxtaposition here between the longer natural cycles of the tree and the shorter years of men. 
    • Are you starting to get the sense that Tennyson is really emphasizing how puny mere mortals are in the face of not only God, but also nature? Not even the wind or the sun can do much damage to the tree, which will live for a thousand years.
    • Now Tennyson's using apostrophe to address the tree, speaking directly to it with the super-dramatic Victorian "O."
    • He continues to address the tree, personifying it by calling it "sullen." 
    • This is a great example of pathetic fallacy, where a writer describes the outside world in a way that reflects his/her own inner mood.
    • After all, a tree can't really be "sullen" or "stubborn," but we get the sense that Tennyson can, since he's so sad over his friend's death.
    • And he's grieving so much that he loses the sense of himself and grows bodiless ("incorporate") into the tree. This isn't happening for real, of course. It's just the speaker imagining being one with the tree. Far out, man.
  • Canto 3

    Lines 77-92

    O Sorrow, cruel fellowship,
      O Priestess in the vaults of Death,
      O sweet and bitter in a breath,
    What whispers from thy lying lip?

    "The stars," she whispers, "blindly run;
      A web is wov'n across the sky;
      From out waste places comes a cry,
    And murmurs from the dying sun;

    "And all the phantom, Nature, stands—
      With all the music in her tone,
      A hollow echo of my own,—
    A hollow form with empty hands."

    And shall I take a thing so blind,
      Embrace her as my natural good;
      Or crush her, like a vice of blood,
    Upon the threshold of the mind?

    • Now Tennyson personifies sorrow, and again uses apostrophe. He characterizes her as a deceitful "priestess" of death.
    • There's also an oxymoron going on here. She offers the speaker fellowship that is cruel, and sweetness and bitterness in the same breath.
    • She's also telling him that the stars move "blindly," not because of any purpose. Hmm...does this mean that the speaker is now doubting there is a grand purpose to life? 
    • That seems to be it. He follows this up with Sorrow's statement that Nature is a "phantom" (so, insubstantial), that her music is just a flimsy echo of Sorrow's, and that she has "empty hands." Yep—it certainly seems like Sorrow is trying to get him to believe there's nothing guiding the universe. "Hollow" is important here, too. 
    • Tennyson asks himself if he'll give in to Sorrow, or if he should instead "crush her" upon his mind. He's definitely having a struggle here that's kicked off by the grief he's feeling.
  • Canto 4

    Lines 93-108

    To Sleep I give my powers away;
      My will is bondsman to the dark;
      I sit within a helmless bark,
    And with my heart I muse and say:

    O heart, how fares it with thee now,
      That thou should'st fail from thy desire,
      Who scarcely darest to inquire,
    "What is it makes me beat so low?"

    Something it is which thou hast lost,
      Some pleasure from thine early years.
      Break, thou deep vase of chilling tears,
    That grief hath shaken into frost!

    Such clouds of nameless trouble cross
      All night below the darken'd eyes;
      With morning wakes the will, and cries,
    "Thou shalt not be the fool of loss."

    • So he decides to sleep, which is a way to get away from these feelings.
    • Now Tennyson's talking to his heart (more personification). Apparently his heart doesn't know what it's missing, and doesn't know why it's not beating as strongly as it once did.
    • The loss of his friend, we find out, happened many years prior to whenever now is in the poem. He wants to be able to cry about this, but his tears are locked in a "deep vase" that has been frozen.
    • When morning comes and he wakes up and his willpower takes over, he doesn't want to play the fool for his feelings of grief.
  • Canto 5

    Lines 109-120

    I sometimes hold it half a sin
      To put in words the grief I feel;
      For words, like Nature, half reveal
    And half conceal the Soul within.

    But, for the unquiet heart and brain,
      A use in measured language lies;
      The sad mechanic exercise,
    Like dull narcotics, numbing pain.

    In words, like weeds, I'll wrap me o'er,
      Like coarsest clothes against the cold:
      But that large grief which these enfold
    Is given in outline and no more.

    • He considers it a sin to write about his grief, because words can't really convey the Truth (yes—with a capital T) of what he's feeling.
    • Writing poetry, though, gives him some pain relief.
    • He's here comparing the "mechanic exercise," or precision involved in writing poetry ("measured language"), to the feeling you get when using narcotics. It's taking his mind off things.
    • So, he's going to wrap himself in words like a set of clothes that will protect him from the cold (simile alert).
    • He's only going to be able to give an outline of his true grief in words, though, since it's so difficult to convey.
  • Canto 6

    Lines 121-164

    One writes, that "Other friends remain,"
      That "Loss is common to the race"—
      And common is the commonplace,
    And vacant chaff well meant for grain.

    That loss is common would not make
      My own less bitter, rather more:
      Too common! Never morning wore
    To evening, but some heart did break.

    O father, wheresoe'er thou be,
      Who pledgest now thy gallant son;
      A shot, ere half thy draught be done,
    Hath still'd the life that beat from thee.

    O mother, praying God will save
      Thy sailor,—while thy head is bow'd,
      His heavy-shotted hammock-shroud
    Drops in his vast and wandering grave.

    Ye know no more than I who wrought
      At that last hour to please him well;
      Who mused on all I had to tell,
    And something written, something thought;

    Expecting still his advent home;
      And ever met him on his way
      With wishes, thinking, "here to-day,"
    Or "here to-morrow will he come."

    O somewhere, meek, unconscious dove,
      That sittest ranging golden hair;
      And glad to find thyself so fair,
    Poor child, that waitest for thy love!

    For now her father's chimney glows
      In expectation of a guest;
      And thinking "this will please him best,"
    She takes a riband or a rose;

    For he will see them on to-night;
      And with the thought her colour burns;
      And, having left the glass, she turns
    Once more to set a ringlet right;

    And, even when she turn'd, the curse
    Had fallen, and her future Lord
    Was drown'd in passing thro' the ford,
    Or kill'd in falling from his horse.

    O what to her shall be the end?
    And what to me remains of good?
    To her, perpetual maidenhood,
    And unto me no second friend.

    • Other people try to diss Tenny's grief by telling him that he still has other friends, or that loss is a common thing. Wow...way to discount a guy's sad feelings. Understandably, Tennyson seems to take exception with people saying this is common. He thinks that common isn't good.
    • And he uses a well-placed metaphor to illustrate his point. This advice is to him like chaff, the worthless pieces of hull that are left over when wheat is processed into grain. Plus, just because people die and this is a common occurrence doesn't make his loss any easier to bear. Fathers lose their sons when their lives have only half been lived. 
    • Apostrophe alert: Tennyson is addressing these peeps as if they were sitting right next to him. He addresses mothers in general (through this specific mother that he speaks to) who have lost their sons, for example at sea.
    • Then the speaker moves on to lovers who have lost their beloveds. He uses the sad example of a girl braiding her hair and waiting for her boyfriend to come back.
    • The speaker imagines her anxiously awaiting his return, only to find out that he's drowned, or has fallen off of a horse. There are so many ways people can die.
    • And too bad for that girl. Because her beloved is gone, she'll forever remain in the state of "maidenhood" (meaning a virgin, so no love for her).
    • But what's this "second friend" deal? Hmm....we know from Tennyson's biography that Arthur was supposed to marry one of Tennyson's sisters, so maybe this canto is more personal than just describing the universal human condition of everyone eventually having to deal with grief. (Check out "Speaker" for more.)
  • Canto 7

    Lines 165-176

    Dark house, by which once more I stand
      Here in the long unlovely street,
      Doors, where my heart was used to beat
    So quickly, waiting for a hand,

    A hand that can be clasp'd no more—
      Behold me, for I cannot sleep,
      And like a guilty thing I creep
    At earliest morning to the door.

    He is not here; but far away
      The noise of life begins again,
      And ghastly thro' the drizzling rain
    On the bald street breaks the blank day.

    • Tennyson seems to be hanging around the place where his friend lived, which he characterizes as a "dark house" (there's that darkness and light contrast again).
    • He once used to wait at that house for a hand that clasped his, but now he can't sleep and is creeping around the house in the early hours of the morning. That's kind of weird, since Tenny knows his friend is not there anymore.
    • Even though the neighborhood wakes up around him, the speaker sees the breaking day as "ghastly" and "blank." Plus, it's "drizzling rain," so if the scene can get any more depressing, we're not sure what it would take.
  • Canto 8

    Lines 177-200

    A happy lover who has come
    To look on her that loves him well,
    Who 'lights and rings the gateway bell,
    And learns her gone and far from home; 

    He saddens, all the magic light
    Dies off at once from bower and hall,
    And all the place is dark, and all
    The chambers emptied of delight: 

    So find I every pleasant spot
       In which we two were wont to meet,
       The field, the chamber, and the street,
    For all is dark where thou art not. 

    Yet as that other, wandering there
       In those deserted walks, may find
       A flower beat with rain and wind,
    Which once she foster'd up with care; 

    So seems it in my deep regret,
       O my forsaken heart, with thee
       And this poor flower of poesy
    Which little cared for fades not yet.

    But since it pleased a vanish'd eye,
       I go to plant it on his tomb,
       That if it can it there may bloom,
    Or, dying, there at least may die. 

    • Now Tennyson drops an extended metaphor on us.
    • When a man comes to visit a woman he loves and discovers that she is not there, he grows sad and all the light is sucked out of the place, since his hopes are dashed. Yep, that's exactly how Tennyson feels now that his friend is gone.
    • All of the places they once used to meet are now dark because he is not there.
    • This canto is heavy with the darkness vs. light imagery that we've been noticing.
    • He returns to his previous metaphor of the man and woman in love (is this a strange metaphor for two male friends?).
    • Tennyson's poem is like a flower that the beloved woman once nurtured, but that has now been beaten down with wind and rain.
    • Just as a grieving man might put a flower on the tomb of his beloved, Tennyson is going to "plant" his poem on his friend's tomb. If it doesn't bloom (like the metaphorical flower), it will at least be close to him.
    • And we're thinking the act of placing the poem on his friend's tomb is just another metaphor. He's probably not really going to take his manuscript and place it physically on the guy's grave.
  • Canto 9

    Lines 201-220

    Fair ship, that from the Italian shore
       Sailest the placid ocean-plains
       With my lost Arthur's loved remains,
    Spread thy full wings, and waft him o'er.

    So draw him home to those that mourn
       In vain; a favourable speed
       Ruffle thy mirror'd mast, and lead
    Thro' prosperous floods his holy urn.

    All night no ruder air perplex
       Thy sliding keel, till Phosphor, bright
       As our pure love, thro' early light
    Shall glimmer on the dewy decks.

    Sphere all your lights around, above;
       Sleep, gentle heavens, before the prow;
       Sleep, gentle winds, as he sleeps now,
    My friend, the brother of my love;

    My Arthur, whom I shall not see
      Till all my widow'd race be run;
      Dear as the mother to the son,
    More than my brothers are to me.

    • Okay, so we've gone from a dark house on a winding street to a love affair between a man and a woman, and now Tennyson's talking to a ship. It's the ship that brought his friend's body back to England from Italy.
    • And now we have a name. The guy Tennyson is mourning was named Arthur.
    • He urges the ship to quickly and safely bring Arthur's remains home. It must be difficult for Tennyson to speak of this, since these lines use lots of enjambment—way more than we saw back in line 7. He keeps the sentence starting in line 206 going all the way into line 208, so he really wants to get this idea across.
    • Tennyson wishes that no winds will disturb the boat, and that the heavens and winds will sleep as it's making its way over. We're sure that by "heavens" and "winds" he's talking about harsh weather. He wants these to sleep as his friend is now sleeping.
    • There's something funky with time going on here. Tennyson is speaking as if the ship is coming with Arthur's body right now, but several stanzas ago, it was many years since he had died.
    • So things aren't necessarily happening in chronological order (take a gander at the "Form and Meter" section for further deets on this).
    • We're getting some more info now on Arthur. He was apparently the brother of Tennyson's woman.
    • The last stanza in this canto is heavy with grief. He describes his life as "widow'd" without Arthur (wow...heavy-duty), and claims his friend is as dear to him as a mother to a son or as close as brothers. What a mixture of metaphors for their relationship.
  • Canto 10

    Lines 221-240

    I hear the noise about thy keel;
       I hear the bell struck in the night:
       I see the cabin-window bright;
    I see the sailor at the wheel.

    Thou bring'st the sailor to his wife,
       And travell'd men from foreign lands;
       And letters unto trembling hands;
    And, thy dark freight, a vanish'd life.

    So bring him; we have idle dreams:
       This look of quiet flatters thus
       Our home-bred fancies. O to us,
    The fools of habit, sweeter seems

    To rest beneath the clover sod,
       That takes the sunshine and the rains,
       Or where the kneeling hamlet drains
    The chalice of the grapes of God;

    Than if with thee the roaring wells
       Should gulf him fathom-deep in brine;
       And hands so often clasp'd in mine,
    Should toss with tangle and with shells. 

    • Tennyson imagines he is there to see the ship carrying his friend home.
    • We get more anaphora here. Lines 221-222 start with "I hear" and lines 223-224 start with "I see." This repetition emphasizes Tennyson's feeling of being there on the boat.
    • Okay, so he's still talking directly to the ship about how it's bringing something bad (his friend's dead body, described as "dark freight") in contrast to the positive things it usually brings: sailors to their families, men from afar, and letters to home.
    • The next stanza, when the speaker urges the boat to bring his friend, gets a bit hectic.
    • There's more enjambment here, and Tennyson's thoughts not only spill over from line to line but also from stanza to stanza (check out "Sound Check" for more).
    • He would much rather see his friend safely buried than to have his body lost at sea in the "tangle," which is a pretty vivid image of seaweed that the body would be wrapped up in.
    • This image also nicely sets off the more positive image of hands clasping. So things clasping and tangling seem to be important (remember the roots of the yew tree that got tangled up with the bodies underneath it?).
  • Canto 11

    Lines 241-260

    Calm is the morn without a sound,
       Calm as to suit a calmer grief,
       And only thro' the faded leaf
    The chestnut pattering to the ground:

    Calm and deep peace on this high wold,
       And on these dews that drench the furze,
       And all the silvery gossamers
    That twinkle into green and gold:

    Calm and still light on yon great plain
       That sweeps with all its autumn bowers,
       And crowded farms and lessening towers,
    To mingle with the bounding main:

    Calm and deep peace in this wide air,
       These leaves that redden to the fall;
       And in my heart, if calm at all,
    If any calm, a calm despair:

    Calm on the seas, and silver sleep,
       And waves that sway themselves in rest,
       And dead calm in that noble breast
    Which heaves but with the heaving deep.

    • Do you get the impression that the main theme in this section is—wait for it—"calm"? Ding, ding, ding—we have a winner.
    • There's anaphora all throughout this canto with repetitions of "calm" at the beginning of tons of lines.
    • This totally make sense, since Tennyson is now lapsing into what he calls a "calm despair."
    • And check out how the imagery emphasizes this calmness.
    • We have: a quiet morning, drops of dew coating the trees ("furze" is a type of tree), "silvery gossamers" (which are probably spiderwebs that are highlighted with dew and sunlight), and ocean waves that are now calm.
    • What about sound here? Well, pay a short visit to "Sound Check" for some info on how consonance and assonance are working here. (Hint: they produce a lulling sound, which emphasizes, well...calm.)
    • You should also notice the reference to "leaves that redden to the fall" in line 254. This is a reference to time passing, but so far we don't have a solid hook to hang this on, temporally speaking.
  • Canto 12

    Lines 261-280

    Lo, as a dove when up she springs
       To bear thro' Heaven a tale of woe,
       Some dolorous message knit below
    The wild pulsation of her wings;

    Like her I go; I cannot stay;
       I leave this mortal ark behind,
       A weight of nerves without a mind,
    And leave the cliffs, and haste away

    O'er ocean-mirrors rounded large,
       And reach the glow of southern skies,
       And see the sails at distance rise,
    And linger weeping on the marge,

    And saying; "Comes he thus, my friend?
       Is this the end of all my care?"
       And circle moaning in the air:
    "Is this the end? Is this the end?"

    And forward dart again, and play
       About the prow, and back return
       To where the body sits, and learn
    That I have been an hour away.

    • If you get the impression Tennyson's having an out-of-body experience here, you'd be right.
    • He's again imagining himself somewhere other than where he is. He's now leaving his body behind (which he describes as a "mortal ark," meaning boat), and is like a dove that carries a sad message to Heaven.
    • Not only is he like a dove, but he's also a "weight of nerves without a mind." Nerves are what conduct sensations throughout the body, so by this we think he means he is pure emotion or feeling without an intellect to comprehend it or put it into perspective.
    • He imagines himself floating around the ship, and sees his friend's body.
  • Canto 13

    Lines 281-300

    Tears of the widower, when he sees
       A late-lost form that sleep reveals,
       And moves his doubtful arms, and feels
    Her place is empty, fall like these;

    Which weep a loss for ever new,
       A void where heart on heart reposed;
       And, where warm hands have prest and closed,
    Silence, till I be silent too.

    Which weep the comrade of my choice,
       An awful thought, a life removed,
       The human-hearted man I loved,
    A Spirit, not a breathing voice.

    Come, Time, and teach me, many years,
       I do not suffer in a dream;
      For now so strange do these things seem,
    Mine eyes have leisure for their tears;

    My fancies time to rise on wing,
       And glance about the approaching sails,
       As tho' they brought but merchants' bales,
    And not the burthen that they bring.

    • Now Tennyson is comparing himself with a widower who mourns his wife's death. That would put Arthur in the place of his wife. We're starting to think these two really were really big fans of each other.
    • Again, we get the sense that Tennyson is looking back over a long time to when Arthur's death was fresh in his mind.
    • He describes the things he has been talking about over the past couple of cantos (the ship and his friend's body) as "strange," which means "foreign" and can also mean "remote."
    • Because he has some distance on the event, he has the "leisure" for weeping.
    • In the last stanza here, he imagines coming to this moment anew, as if the ship only carried goods to be sold, and not the "burthen" (burden) of his dear friend's dead body.
  • Canto 14

    Lines 301-320

    If one should bring me this report,
       That thou hadst touch'd the land to-day,
       And I went down unto the quay,
    And found thee lying in the port;

    And standing, muffled round with woe,
       Should see thy passengers in rank
       Come stepping lightly down the plank,
    And beckoning unto those they know;

    And if along with these should come
       The man I held as half-divine;
       Should strike a sudden hand in mine,
    And ask a thousand things of home;

    And I should tell him all my pain,
       And how my life had droop'd of late,
       And he should sorrow o'er my state
    And marvel what possess'd my brain;

    And I perceived no touch of change,
       No hint of death in all his frame,
       But found him all in all the same,
    I should not feel it to be strange.

    • Tennyson engages in some more fanciful imaginings.
    • This whole canto uses the word "should" many times. We're going to drop a Grammar Bomb on you and remind you that "should" is the past conditional form of "shall." Conditionals tell us that we're in the realm of potential or possibility. These are things that aren't necessarily happening, but that—under the right conditions—might happen or could happen.
    • Here, the speaker goes to great lengths to tell us that if on this very day he came to the ship and saw Arthur stepping off of it, he wouldn't be surprised. No—he doesn't imagine Arthur as a zombie here, but rather still alive.
    • And we get the idea that Tennyson wouldn't be surprised by this at all, because he regards his friend as "half-divine" (which sort of links him with Jesus from the Prologue).
  • Canto 15

    Lines 321-340

    To-night the winds begin to rise
       And roar from yonder dropping day:
       The last red leaf is whirl'd away,
    The rooks are blown about the skies;

    The forest crack'd, the waters curl'd,
       The cattle huddled on the lea;
       And wildly dash'd on tower and tree
    The sunbeam strikes along the world:

    And but for fancies, which aver
       That all thy motions gently pass
       Athwart a plane of molten glass,
    I scarce could brook the strain and stir

    That makes the barren branches loud;
       And but for fear it is not so,
       The wild unrest that lives in woe
    Would dote and pore on yonder cloud

    That rises upward always higher,
       And onward drags a labouring breast,
       And topples round the dreary west,
    A looming bastion fringed with fire.

    • Time's passing, gang. We now appear to be heading into winter. The "last red leaf" (remember Canto 11?) has blown away and the branches are barren of leaves.
    • And that whole "calm despair" thing from back in line 256? That seems to have gone right out the window. The speaker now has a "wild unrest" that is caused by his "woe" (sadness).
  • Canto 16

    Lines 341-360

    What words are these have fall'n from me?
       Can calm despair and wild unrest
       Be tenants of a single breast,
    Or sorrow such a changeling be?

    Or doth she only seem to take
       The touch of change in calm or storm;
       But knows no more of transient form
    In her deep self, than some dead lake

    That holds the shadow of a lark
       Hung in the shadow of a heaven?
       Or has the shock, so harshly given,
    Confused me like the unhappy bark

    That strikes by night a craggy shelf,
       And staggers blindly ere she sink?
       And stunn'd me from my power to think
    And all my knowledge of myself;

    And made me that delirious man
       Whose fancy fuses old and new,
       And flashes into false and true,
    And mingles all without a plan?

    • Tennyson himself notices the contrast between his previous "calm despair" and current "wild unrest." He expresses some discomfort with both of these existing in the same person, and describes sorrow (previously personified) as a "changeling" (check out "Allusions" for more info on that).
    • This whole canto is a balance of opposites held in tension: calm and storm; old and new; false and true.
    • And there's lots of emphasis on things being unstable or transient.
    • In fact, he seems pretty freaked out by things not being in their rightful place—things "mingl[ing] without a plan."
  • Canto 17

    Lines 361-380

    Thou comest, much wept for: such a breeze
       Compell'd thy canvas, and my prayer
       Was as the whisper of an air
    To breathe thee over lonely seas.

    For I in spirit saw thee move
       Thro' circles of the bounding sky,
       Week after week: the days go by:
    Come quick, thou bringest all I love.

    Henceforth, wherever thou may'st roam,
       My blessing, like a line of light,
      Is on the waters day and night,
    And like a beacon guards thee home.

    So may whatever tempest mars
       Mid-ocean, spare thee, sacred bark;
       And balmy drops in summer dark
    Slide from the bosom of the stars.

    So kind an office hath been done,
       Such precious relics brought by thee;
       The dust of him I shall not see
    Till all my widow'd race be run.

    • The speaker goes back to addressing the ship. He calls it a "bark" in this canto (and back in line 352). He wishes it smooth sailing because it did him the great kindness of bringing his friend's body home safely.
  • Canto 18

    Lines 381-400

    'Tis well; 'tis something; we may stand
       Where he in English earth is laid,
       And from his ashes may be made
    The violet of his native land.

    'Tis little; but it looks in truth
       As if the quiet bones were blest
       Among familiar names to rest
    And in the places of his youth.

    Come then, pure hands, and bear the head
       That sleeps or wears the mask of sleep,
       And come, whatever loves to weep,
    And hear the ritual of the dead.

    Ah yet, ev'n yet, if this might be,
       I, falling on his faithful heart,
       Would breathing thro' his lips impart
    The life that almost dies in me;

    That dies not, but endures with pain,
       And slowly forms the firmer mind,
       Treasuring the look it cannot find,
    The words that are not heard again.

    • The speaker starts to get a little optimistic here and admits that a beautiful violet may grow where his friend has been buried, nurtured from his friend's "ashes" and the "English earth."
    • This is a more positive image of human remains and nature mingling that the rather ominous yew tree we saw back in Canto 1.
    • Tennyson takes some comfort in the fact that his friend is laid to rest "among familiar names."
    • Then he lapses right back into his despair by entertaining the thought that, if he could breathe his friend back to life, he would.
    • He notes that he himself feels like life is about to leave his body, but it doesn't and that's because he's just enduring the pain. That's all there is in his view right now.
  • Canto 19

    Lines 401-416

    The Danube to the Severn gave
       The darken'd heart that beat no more;
       They laid him by the pleasant shore,
    And in the hearing of the wave.

    There twice a day the Severn fills;
       The salt sea-water passes by,
       And hushes half the babbling Wye,
    And makes a silence in the hills.

    The Wye is hush'd nor moved along,
       And hush'd my deepest grief of all,
       When fill'd with tears that cannot fall,
    I brim with sorrow drowning song.

    The tide flows down, the wave again
       Is vocal in its wooded walls;
       My deeper anguish also falls,
    And I can speak a little then.

    • Tennyson seems to be ruminating again on Arthur's death. He notes that the ship came down the Danube to the Severn, so from somewhere in Europe (where the Danube river flows) and into England (which is where the Severn and Wye rivers are).
    • As he watches the river flow along, he can't cry because he's in his "deepest grief of all."
    • This, to him, is like drowning.
    • When the tide goes out, though, his sadness lessens somewhat and he is able to speak.
  • Canto 20

    Lines 417-436

    The lesser griefs that may be said,
       That breathe a thousand tender vows,
       Are but as servants in a house
    Where lies the master newly dead;

    Who speak their feeling as it is,
       And weep the fulness from the mind:
       "It will be hard," they say, "to find
    Another service such as this."

    My lighter moods are like to these,
       That out of words a comfort win;
       But there are other griefs within,
    And tears that at their fountain freeze;

    For by the hearth the children sit
       Cold in that atmosphere of Death,
       And scarce endure to draw the breath,
    Or like to noiseless phantoms flit;

    But open converse is there none,
       So much the vital spirits sink
       To see the vacant chair, and think,
    "How good! how kind! and he is gone."

    • We're getting another metaphor, folks. When Tennyson is able to express some of his "lesser griefs," these are like "servants in a house" where the master has just died.
    • So, these "lesser griefs" are just everyday type griefs that go about their business? That's what we're going to go with.
    • But wait—we find out that these servants in Tennyson's metaphor are going to find it hard to find another boss such as the guy who just passed away.
    • Okay—the servants really liked their jobs, and won't find adequate replacements. That's how Tennyson's "lesser griefs" are: they'll never find another worthy person to be so grievous over.
    • A final word from these imaginary servants: "How good! how kind! and he is gone" (436).
    • This starts to give us a bit more on what kind of man Arthur was in life. We now know he was good and kind.
  • Canto 21

    Lines 437-464

    I sing to him that rests below,
       And, since the grasses round me wave,
       I take the grasses of the grave,
    And make them pipes whereon to blow.

    The traveller hears me now and then,
       And sometimes harshly will he speak:
       "This fellow would make weakness weak,
    And melt the waxen hearts of men."

    Another answers, "Let him be,
       He loves to make parade of pain
       That with his piping he may gain
    The praise that comes to constancy."

    A third is wroth: "Is this an hour
       For private sorrow's barren song,
       When more and more the people throng
    The chairs and thrones of civil power?

    "A time to sicken and to swoon,
       When Science reaches forth her arms
       To feel from world to world, and charms
    Her secret from the latest moon?"

    Behold, ye speak an idle thing:
       Ye never knew the sacred dust:
       I do but sing because I must,
    And pipe but as the linnets sing:

    And one is glad; her note is gay,
       For now her little ones have ranged;
       And one is sad; her note is changed,
    Because her brood is stol'n away.

    • Tennyson is singing to his friend, who is resting below. Uh-oh—does that mean the place where bad people go?
    • Nope. He just means below the ground, where he is buried. Putting Arthur in Hell wouldn't have made much sense because he was such a good and kind man.
    • The speaker makes little pipes from the grasses that grow on Arthur's grave, and blows them. He imaginatively re-creates the reactions of some people to his piping.
    • One chastises him for being too sad and for making others sad too.
    • Another seems to admire his "parade of pain" (alliteration alert) and praises his consistency.
    • A third one seems to be angry ("wroth" is a nice archaic word for anger) at Tennyson for his grief, and regards his song as "barren" (remember that word from earlier, when we were heading into winter?).
    • He wonders why Tennyson would keep this song up when there's so much more going on in the world.
    • Plus, Science (here personified as a woman) is making the world more understandable. She's "feel[ing] from world to world" and making her secrets known.
    • Tennyson defends himself by saying that they never knew Arthur. He uses the image of "sacred dust" to emphasize just how important his friend still is to him. He's now dust, so this must be years after he's died, right?
    • Ready for another metaphor? Great, here it comes: Tennyson is like a linnet (a little bird). One linnet might be happy and chirp happily because her little birdies have finally ranged from their nest, while another might sing sadly because her brood has been taken away from her.
  • Canto 22

    Lines 465-484

    The path by which we twain did go,
       Which led by tracts that pleased us well,
       Thro' four sweet years arose and fell,
    From flower to flower, from snow to snow:

    And we with singing cheer'd the way,
       And, crown'd with all the season lent,
       From April on to April went,
    And glad at heart from May to May:

    But where the path we walk'd began
       To slant the fifth autumnal slope,
       As we descended following Hope,
    There sat the Shadow fear'd of man;

    Who broke our fair companionship,
       And spread his mantle dark and cold,
       And wrapt thee formless in the fold,
    And dull'd the murmur on thy lip,

    And bore thee where I could not see
       Nor follow, tho' I walk in haste,
       And think, that somewhere in the waste
    The Shadow sits and waits for me.

    • For four years, Tennyson and Arthur were tight. The speaker conveys this in terms of the two of them ("twain," which just means "two") walking a path.
    • They were happy throughout all of the seasons, whether spring or winter (symbolized by the flowers and snow in line 468).
    • In the fifth year of their friendship, though, they meet "the Shadow fear'd by man" along their path.
    • Heads up for a scary personification of death in all his Grim Reaper-y glory: Death wraps Arthur up in his "mantle" (cloak), and takes him away to a place Tennyson cannot see.
    • He knows that Shadow is also waiting for him.
  • Canto 23

    Lines 485-508

    Now, sometimes in my sorrow shut,
       Or breaking into song by fits,
       Alone, alone, to where he sits,
    The Shadow cloak'd from head to foot,

    Who keeps the keys of all the creeds,
       I wander, often falling lame,
       And looking back to whence I came,
    Or on to where the pathway leads;

    And crying, How changed from where it ran
       Thro' lands where not a leaf was dumb;
       But all the lavish hills would hum
    The murmur of a happy Pan:

    When each by turns was guide to each,
       And Fancy light from Fancy caught,
       And Thought leapt out to wed with Thought
    Ere Thought could wed itself with Speech;

    And all we met was fair and good,
       And all was good that Time could bring,
       And all the secret of the Spring
    Moved in the chambers of the blood;

    And many an old philosophy
       On Argive heights divinely sang,
       And round us all the thicket rang
    To many a flute of Arcady.

    • Now, Tennyson looks back on their journey and thinks about how the space rang with the sound of Pan playing his pipes (better check the "Allusions" section if you don't know who this guy is).
    • The two were so close that their imaginations would feed off of each other, and they would even complete each other's thoughts. That's really close.
    • He uses the word "wed" in lines 499 and 500 to capture just how close their thoughts were and how they would almost complete each other's sentences. (Again with the marriage imagery with these two.)
    • Around them are the songs of Argive philosophy (Argos is a major port city in Greece) and the flutes of Arcady (a rural area in Greece often regarded as a rustic kind of paradise).
    • So, there's the best of both worlds here—both the city and the country.
  • Canto 24

    Lines 509-524

    And was the day of my delight
       As pure and perfect as I say?
       The very source and fount of Day
    Is dash'd with wandering isles of night.

    If all was good and fair we met,
       This earth had been the Paradise
       It never look'd to human eyes
    Since our first Sun arose and set.

    And is it that the haze of grief
       Makes former gladness loom so great?
       The lowness of the present state,
    That sets the past in this relief?

    Or that the past will always win
       A glory from its being far;
       And orb into the perfect star
    We saw not, when we moved therein?

    • Tennyson wonders now if his memories of the two of them are accurate. Were things really that good?
    • He affirms that they are, because now his world is like shadows have stolen the very sun away. That's pretty bad, gang.
    • Their friendship was so good (all together now: how…good…was it?) that Earth was pretty much a Paradise (and we're talking Biblical, so this is big) and had never been looked at by people in this way before—since the beginning of time, even.
    • He again questions if he's reading things correctly, and thinks that his perception might be affected by the "haze of grief" he is experiencing, which could make things seem better than they actually were.
    • Or, it could be that distance always make events from the past seem better than they really were. (And trust us—this is true. You'll start getting all nostalgic, even for the Beebs, sometime when you hit age 30.)
    • And he gives us a nice image to play with in this regard. Looking at this in the past is like seeing a perfect star from far away that you didn't even notice when you were close up.
  • Canto 25

    Lines 525-536

    I know that this was Life,—the track
       Whereon with equal feet we fared;
       And then, as now, the day prepared
    The daily burden for the back.

    But this it was that made me move
       As light as carrier-birds in air;
       I loved the weight I had to bear,
    Because it needed help of Love:

    Nor could I weary, heart or limb,
       When mighty Love would cleave in twain
       The lading of a single pain,
    And part it, giving half to him.

    • When his friend was alive, Tennyson could bear any weight (and we're talking metaphorical weight here—he means the everyday weight of duty, responsibility, etc., that people have) as long as he could share it with his friend.
    • He actually loved to carry that kind of weight because it was a burden he could split with his friend, and he could pick up Arthur's load, too.
  • Canto 26

    Lines 537-552

    Still onward winds the dreary way;
      I with it; for I long to prove
      No lapse of moons can canker Love,
    Whatever fickle tongues may say.

    And if that eye which watches guilt
       And goodness, and hath power to see
       Within the green the moulder'd tree,
    And towers fall'n as soon as built—

    Oh, if indeed that eye foresee
       Or see (in Him is no before)
       In more of life true life no more
    And Love the indifference to be,

    Then might I find, ere yet the morn
       Breaks hither over Indian seas,
       That Shadow waiting with the keys,
    To shroud me from my proper scorn.

    • But Tennyson's going to just keep on truckin'. He doesn't care if other people (who are fickle or changeable) think that the passing of moons can make love go away.
    • Now he's talking about an eye that sees things. this the moon that he just mentioned? That's kind of eye-like.
    • Ah, we've got it: he's talking about The Big Guy again. We get that with the capitalized "Him" in line 546. That makes sense, since God sees all.
    • God's eye can see things, and foresee things, because he is outside the confines of time.
  • Canto 27

    Lines 553-568

    I envy not in any moods
       The captive void of noble rage,
       The linnet born within the cage,
    That never knew the summer woods:

    I envy not the beast that takes
       His license in the field of time,
       Unfetter'd by the sense of crime,
    To whom a conscience never wakes;

    Nor, what may count itself as blest,
       The heart that never plighted troth
       But stagnates in the weeds of sloth;
    Nor any want-begotten rest.

    I hold it true, whate'er befall;
       I feel it, when I sorrow most;
       'Tis better to have loved and lost
    Than never to have loved at all.

    • The speaker doesn't envy a captive who isn't angry, or a linnet (again with the birds) that is born in captivity. He also doesn't envy a beast without a conscience, or anyone who hasn't been true and yet considers himself blessed. Maybe he's talking about a hypocrite here? Yep, that sounds about right.
    • Well, at this point we're thinking "Duh." Who would envy or want to be any of those things?
    • And bam—in that last stanza of the canto, things fall into place and make sense.
    • Famous Line Alert: "It is better to have loved and lost / Than never to have loved at all" (567-568). So, it's better to go through something and have the experience than to never have the experience at all. Even though he's hurting, he at least had the experiences with Arthur and has the memories.
    • That's something the bird in the cage, or a cowed captive, or a beast without conscience will never have.
    • This seems like a turning point for Tennyson. He's starting to get somewhere with his grief.
  • Canto 28

    Lines 569-588

    The time draws near the birth of Christ:
       The moon is hid; the night is still;
       The Christmas bells from hill to hill
    Answer each other in the mist.

    Four voices of four hamlets round,
       From far and near, on mead and moor,
       Swell out and fail, as if a door
    Were shut between me and the sound:

    Each voice four changes on the wind,
      That now dilate, and now decrease,
       Peace and goodwill, goodwill and peace,
    Peace and goodwill, to all mankind.

    This year I slept and woke with pain,
       I almost wish'd no more to wake,
       And that my hold on life would break
    Before I heard those bells again:

    But they my troubled spirit rule,
      For they controll'd me when a boy;
       They bring me sorrow touch'd with joy,
    The merry merry bells of Yule.

    • We're getting another marker for the passage time: it's the Christmas season.
    • Tennyson can hear the Christmas bells echoing throughout his village. He even recreates this sonically with: "Peace and goodwill, goodwill and peace / Peace and goodwill, to all mankind" (579-580). These four phrases replicate the tolling of the overlapping bells.
    • He notes that for this entire year (again, time seems shaky) he's been feeling the pain of loss—even to the point where he wished he were dead (yikes!).
    • The bells, however, seem to soothe him. They "rule" his "troubled spirit" (585) and bring him both sadness and joy.
  • Canto 29

    Lines 589-604

    With such compelling cause to grieve
       As daily vexes household peace,
       And chains regret to his decease,
    How dare we keep our Christmas-eve;

    Which brings no more a welcome guest
       To enrich the threshold of the night
       With shower'd largess of delight
    In dance and song and game and jest?

    Yet go, and while the holly boughs
       Entwine the cold baptismal font,
       Make one wreath more for Use and Wont,
    That guard the portals of the house;

    Old sisters of a day gone by,
       Gray nurses, loving nothing new;
       Why should they miss their yearly due
    Before their time? They too will die.

    • Still, Tennyson wonders how he can even celebrate Christmas in his grief.
    • His favorite guest will not be coming to engage in their usual games and exchange of gifts.
    • He's going to soldier on, though, and celebrate because of Use and Wont—personifications of Convention and Habit.
    • These are described as "Old sisters of a day gone by" (601) and "Gray nurses" (602). He doesn't want to keep these customs, but might as well, since they, too, will eventually die.
  • Canto 30

    Lines 605-636

    With trembling fingers did we weave
       The holly round the Chrismas hearth;
       A rainy cloud possess'd the earth,
    And sadly fell our Christmas-eve.

    At our old pastimes in the hall
       We gambol'd, making vain pretence
       Of gladness, with an awful sense
    Of one mute Shadow watching all.

    We paused: the winds were in the beech
       We heard them sweep the winter land
       And in a circle hand-in-hand
    Sat silent, looking each at each.

    Then echo-like our voices rang;
       We sung, tho' every eye was dim,
       A merry song we sang with him
    Last year: impetuously we sang:

    We ceased: a gentler feeling crept
       Upon us: surely rest is meet:
       "They rest," we said, "their sleep is sweet,"
    And silence follow'd, and we wept.

    Our voices took a higher range;
       Once more we sang: "They do not die
       Nor lose their mortal sympathy,
    Nor change to us, although they change;

    "Rapt from the fickle and the frail
       With gather'd power, yet the same,
       Pierces the keen seraphic flame
    From orb to orb, from veil to veil."

    Rise, happy morn, rise, holy morn,
       Draw forth the cheerful day from night:
       O Father, touch the east, and light
    The light that shone when Hope was born.

    • Tennyson and others kind of half-heartedly celebrate Christmas, all while mourning Arthur.
    • There's one "mute Shadow" that's watching everyone (612). Pretty ominous, huh?
    • It seems like this Shadow can either be death (which "Shadow" has referred to previously) or the spirit of Arthur.
    • They remember the happy song they sang last year at this time with Arthur, and everyone starts crying.
    • The song they sing is about how when people die, they are changed, but not totally gone. This seems to be a hopeful point in the poem.
    • And we get Hope personified in the last line of the Canto.
  • Canto 31

    Lines 637-652

    When Lazarus left his charnel-cave,
       And home to Mary's house return'd,
       Was this demanded—if he yearn'd
    To hear her weeping by his grave?

    "Where wert thou, brother, those four days?"
       There lives no record of reply,
       Which telling what it is to die
    Had surely added praise to praise.

    From every house the neighbours met,
       The streets were fill'd with joyful sound,
       A solemn gladness even crown'd
    The purple brows of Olivet.

    Behold a man raised up by Christ!
       The rest remaineth unreveal'd;
       He told it not; or something seal'd
    The lips of that Evangelist.

    • It's now apparently Bible Story Time: Tennyson talks about how Lazarus was raised from the dead by Jesus.
    • This may be significant, since it's a big symbol of resurrection in the Bible, and a testament to Jesus's power.
    • But there's also something kind of sinister here. When Mary asks her brother where he has been for the last four days, he doesn't answer.
    • There's a sense that Tennyson really would have appreciated if this gap were filled in.
  • Canto 32

    Lines 653-668

    Her eyes are homes of silent prayer,
       Nor other thought her mind admits
       But, he was dead, and there he sits,
    And he that brought him back is there.

    Then one deep love doth supersede
       All other, when her ardent gaze
       Roves from the living brother's face,
    And rests upon the Life indeed.

    All subtle thought, all curious fears,
       Borne down by gladness so complete,
       She bows, she bathes the Saviour's feet
    With costly spikenard and with tears.

    Thrice blest whose lives are faithful prayers,
       Whose loves in higher love endure;
       What souls possess themselves so pure,
    Or is there blessedness like theirs?

    • Mary gazes from Lazarus to Jesus, who brought him back to life (and is described as "Life," so a personification of life itself).
    • She's so happy that her brother has returned that she bathes Jesus's feet with "spikenard" and her own tears.
    • Um, so what's spikenard? It sounds kind of stinky, but it's actually not. It turns out that spikenard is an aromatic essential oil that comes from a flowering plant, so it probably smells pretty good. It's also pricey and swank, so fit for the son of God's tootsies.
  • Canto 33

    Lines 669-684

    O thou that after toil and storm
       Mayst seem to have reach'd a purer air,
       Whose faith has centre everywhere,
    Nor cares to fix itself to form,

    Leave thou thy sister when she prays,
       Her early Heaven, her happy views;
       Nor thou with shadow'd hint confuse
    A life that leads melodious days.

    Her faith thro' form is pure as thine,
       Her hands are quicker unto good:
       Oh, sacred be the flesh and blood
    To which she links a truth divine!

    See thou, that countess reason ripe
       In holding by the law within,
       Thou fail not in a world of sin,
    And ev'n for want of such a type.

    • Tennyson seems to praise Mary for her faith. He seems almost fearful that Lazarus will open his mouth and say something about where he's been that will destroy his (Tennyson's) own faith.
  • Canto 34

    Lines 685-700

    My own dim life should teach me this,
       That life shall live for evermore,
       Else earth is darkness at the core,
    And dust and ashes all that is;

    This round of green, this orb of flame,
       Fantastic beauty; such as lurks
       In some wild Poet, when he works
    Without a conscience or an aim.

    What then were God to such as I?
       'Twere hardly worth my while to choose
       Of things all mortal, or to use
    A tattle patience ere I die;

    'Twere best at once to sink to peace,
       Like birds the charming serpent draws,
       To drop head-foremost in the jaws
    Of vacant darkness and to cease.

    • The speaker is now starting to struggle again with the issue of what meaning there is for man if there's no immortality at the end. Tennyson presents this emptiness as "darkness at the core" of earth (687).
    • He describes the world as being beautiful, but a sort of random beauty that might be created by a "wild Poet."
    • If this is the case, it's better for Tennyson to just go ahead and die like a bird when a snake charms it into its clutches—cheery, eh?
  • Canto 35

    Lines 701-724

    Yet if some voice that man could trust
      Should murmur from the narrow house,
      "The cheeks drop in; the body bows;
    Man dies: nor is there hope in dust:"

    Might I not say? "Yet even here,
       But for one hour, O Love, I strive
       To keep so sweet a thing alive."
    But I should turn mine ears and hear

    The moanings of the homeless sea,
       The sound of streams that swift or slow
       Draw down Æonian hills, and sow
    The dust of continents to be;

    And Love would answer with a sigh,
       "The sound of that forgetful shore
       Will change my sweetness more and more,
    Half-dead to know that I shall die."

    O me, what profits it to put
       An idle case? If Death were seen
       At first as Death, Love had not been,
    Or been in narrowest working shut,

    Mere fellowship of sluggish moods,
       Or in his coarsest Satyr-shape
       Had bruised the herb and crush'd the grape,
    And bask'd and batten'd in the woods.

    • He starts to fight back against the voice of doubt here.
    • Some trusted authority might come along and say, "Hey—people just rot. Their faces cave in and their bodies shrivel up. They turn to dust, so just deal. There's nothing afterwards."
    • If this happened, the speaker would turn to Love (he's personifying again) and say, "Well, so what? Even if it's just for a short time, I'll try to keep something so wonderful alive."
    • Love, though, responds that time will make its sweetness lessen and that once you know you're going to die, you're already half-dead—wow, how depressing.
    • Then Tennyson recognizes that, if we realize right away that when you die, you're dead—there's no immortality—there would be no love. Or else it would just be shallow, or lusty and violent.
    • Where do we get "lusty and violent?" Well, check out that "Satyr" in the last stanza. Satyrs are associated with plenty of drinking and sexual looseness.
    • Plus, there's all that bruising and battening going on in the last line, which is violent imagery.
    • Also, pay attention to the alliteration in those last two lines. Proceed to "Sound Check" for more info on what's going on there.
  • Canto 36

    Lines 725-740

    Tho' truths in manhood darkly join,
       Deep-seated in our mystic frame,
       We yield all blessing to the name
    Of Him that made them current coin;

    For Wisdom dealt with mortal powers,
       Where truth in closest words shall fail,
       When truth embodied in a tale
    Shall enter in at lowly doors.

    And so the Word had breath, and wrought
       With human hands the creed of creeds
       In loveliness of perfect deeds,
    More strong than all poetic thought;

    Which he may read that binds the sheaf,
       Or builds the house, or digs the grave,
       And those wild eyes that watch the wave
    In roarings round the coral reef.

    • This one's a bit tough to suss out. Stick with us here.
    • In the first stanza, the speaker brings up truths that "darkly join" within humans. This might mean that humans can't figure these things out. They struggle (like the speaker has been doing so far), but these things remain "dark" and buried in our "mystic frame" (probably meaning the Soul).
    • But Jesus (as the embodiment of God, the Creator) demonstrates these truths. He is the "truth embodied in a tale / enter[ed] at lowly doors" (731-732).
    • This means he came from lowly beginnings, but then became the embodiment of the Word (the truth from the Bible).
    • Because of Jesus, even those who work lowly jobs (like harvesting, or building, or grave-digging) can "read" the world for these bigger spiritual truths that can be seen in nature.
  • Canto 37

    Lines 741-764

    Urania speaks with darken'd brow:
       `Thou pratest here where thou art least;
       This faith has many a purer priest,
    And many an abler voice than thou.

    "Go down beside thy native rill,
       On thy Parnassus set thy feet,
       And hear thy laurel whisper sweet
    About the ledges of the hill."

    And my Melpomene replies,
       A touch of shame upon her cheek:
       "I am not worthy ev'n to speak
    Of thy prevailing mysteries;

    "For I am but an earthly Muse,
       And owning but a little art
       To lull with song an aching heart,
    And render human love his dues;

    "But brooding on the dear one dead,
       And all he said of things divine,
       (And dear to me as sacred wine
    To dying lips is all he said),

    "I murmur'd, as I came along,
       Of comfort clasp'd in truth reveal'd;
       And loiter'd in the master's field,
    And darken'd sanctities with song."

    • Tennyson does a lot of name-dropping in this canto, so you'd better be ready to visit the "Allusions" section.
    • Urania is the muse of astronomy. Astronomy deals with all the stars, planets, galaxies, etc., outside of Earth. This area (outside of Earth) has also been called "the heavens." So, Urania is a sort of muse of the heavens, or exists over all the other muses.
    • She scolds the speaker for complaining about these topics when he's nothing compared to the more learned priests and others who have made the same complaints before. She sends him off to listen to the other muses (they live on Mount Parnassus, by the by).
    • Melpomene (muse of singing or tragedy) admits that she's not even worthy to speak of Urania's mysteries.
    • She's only an earthly muse who is trying to make the speaker feel a bit better about his dead friend by singing about Arthur and the things he held sacred while he was alive.
  • Canto 38

    Lines 765-776

    With weary steps I loiter on,
       Tho' always under alter'd skies
       The purple from the distance dies,
    My prospect and horizon gone.

    No joy the blowing season gives,
       The herald melodies of spring,
       But in the songs I love to sing
    A doubtful gleam of solace lives.

    If any care for what is here
       Survive in spirits render'd free,
       Then are these songs I sing of thee
    Not all ungrateful to thine ear.

    • It's springtime now, but even that doesn't give Tennyson any joy. He's still hanging on and is kind of directionless—his "prospect" and "horizon" are gone. These are things that you look toward in setting a direction, and for him they are gone.
    • In his poems ("songs"), though, there's some hope for comfort. Perhaps if Arthur's spirit is out there somewhere, he's grateful for this elegy.
    • Except Tennyson expresses this in an understatement. His songs are "[n]ot all ungrateful" to Arthur's "ear," meaning—in a roundabout way—that his friend is grateful for the poem.
  • Canto 39

    Lines 777-788

    Old warder of these buried bones,
       And answering now my random stroke
       With fruitful cloud and living smoke,
    Dark yew, that graspest at the stones

    And dippest toward the dreamless head,
       To thee too comes the golden hour
       When flower is feeling after flower;
    But Sorrow—fixt upon the dead,

    And darkening the dark graves of men,—
       What whisper'd from her lying lips?
       Thy gloom is kindled at the tips,
    And passes into gloom again.

    • Tennyson is so gloomy and sad that not even the springtime yew tree can make him feel better.
    • Here's a more positive image of the yew tree first mentioned back in Canto 2. If you don't remember it, we'll wait for you to review—and to take a gander at our "Symbols, Imagery, Wordplay" section for some ideas.
    • Even though the tree is still grasping at the body below it, it's now flowering.
    • The "fruitful cloud" and "living smoke" are basically blossoms flowing in the spring wind.
  • Canto 40

    Lines 789-820

    Could we forget the widow'd hour
       And look on Spirits breathed away,
       As on a maiden in the day
    When first she wears her orange-flower!

    When crown'd with blessing she doth rise
       To take her latest leave of home,
       And hopes and light regrets that come
    Make April of her tender eyes;

    And doubtful joys the father move,
       And tears are on the mother's face,
       As parting with a long embrace
    She enters other realms of love;

    Her office there to rear, to teach,
       Becoming as is meet and fit
       A link among the days, to knit
    The generations each with each;

    And, doubtless, unto thee is given
       A life that bears immortal fruit
       In those great offices that suit
    The full-grown energies of heaven.

    Ay me, the difference I discern!
       How often shall her old fireside
       Be cheer'd with tidings of the bride,
    How often she herself return,

    And tell them all they would have told,
       And bring her babe, and make her boast,
       Till even those that miss'd her most
    Shall count new things as dear as old:

    But thou and I have shaken hands,
       Till growing winters lay me low;
       My paths are in the fields I know.
    And thine in undiscover'd lands.

    • Why's Tenny all of a sudden talking about some girl getting married? Well, that's easy-peasy: it's an extended metaphor, comparing Arthur's death and presumed rebirth in Heaven to a maiden leaving her parents' home and starting a new life as a bride.
    • This analogy doesn't comfort Tennyson, though. At least, he argues, when a bride leaves home she'll eventually return to visit, or at least news of how she's doing will make its way back to the family (even though they didn't have Facebook or Instagram in the Victorian period).
    • But in this case, Arthur's already gone; their paths have already parted.
  • Canto 41

    Lines 821-844

    Thy spirit ere our fatal loss
       Did ever rise from high to higher;
       As mounts the heavenward altar-fire,
    As flies the lighter thro' the gross.

    But thou art turn'd to something strange,
       And I have lost the links that bound
       Thy changes; here upon the ground,
    No more partaker of thy change.

    Deep folly! yet that this could be—
       That I could wing my will with might
       To leap the grades of life and light,
    And flash at once, my friend, to thee.

    For tho' my nature rarely yields
       To that vague fear implied in death;
       Nor shudders at the gulfs beneath,
    The howlings from forgotten fields;

    Yet oft when sundown skirts the moor
       An inner trouble I behold,
       A spectral doubt which makes me cold,
    That I shall be thy mate no more,

    Tho' following with an upward mind
       The wonders that have come to thee,
       Thro' all the secular to-be,
    But evermore a life behind.

    • Before Arthur died, his spirit was rising. We think that  Tennyson means this in an intellectual sense: he was becoming more and more wise.
    • There's two apt similes here for things rising: "As mounts the heavenward altar-fire" and "As flies the lighter thro' the gross."
    • The first just means his spirit rose like the flames on an altar-fire. Flames lick upward.
    • The second one is using a more scientific simile, and means that lighter gases rise up through heavier ones.
    • Using a scientific analogy makes sense, considering the time period Tennyson lived in (for some further tidbits on this, head on over to "Setting").
    • Where Tennyson was once able to ascend with Arthur, he can do so no more. He wishes he could use his willpower and strength to jump up and be with his friend once again.
    • He's afraid that when he dies, he won't end up where Arthur is.
  • Canto 42

    Lines 845-856

    I vex my heart with fancies dim:
      He still outstript me in the race;
      It was but unity of place
    That made me dream I rank'd with him.

    And so may Place retain us still,
       And he the much-beloved again,
       A lord of large experience, train
    To riper growth the mind and will:

    And what delights can equal those
       That stir the spirit's inner deeps,
      When one that loves but knows not, reaps
    A truth from one that loves and knows?

    • But, Tennyson admonishes himself, he's just making a big deal out of nothing.
    • Arthur "outstript [him] in the race," probably meaning he was of higher social station and more intelligent and accomplished than Tennyson. This could also be a deliberate posture, though, to make the writer look more modest than he actually is.
    • But even though Arthur was better (or so Tennyson imagines), they appeared to be similar because they were in the same place at the same time (like the dramatic unity of place).
    • Tennyson's hoping that, once they are together again (presumably in Heaven or whatever immortal realm exists after death), his friend will be able to share that experience with him to make him better. Because there's nothing better than the feeling you get from learning something from someone you love.
  • Canto 43

    Lines 857-872

    If Sleep and Death be truly one,
       And every spirit's folded bloom
       Thro' all its intervital gloom
    In some long trance should slumber on;

    Unconscious of the sliding hour,
       Bare of the body, might it last,
       And silent traces of the past
    Be all the colour of the flower:

    So then were nothing lost to man;
       So that still garden of the souls
       In many a figured leaf enrolls
    The total world since life began;

    And love will last as pure and whole
       As when he loved me here in Time,
       And at the spiritual prime
    Rewaken with the dawning soul.

    • It's time for another extended metaphor, so get ready:
    • If death is like sleep, the speaker muses, then maybe the spirits of all dead people are just sleeping for a long time in a trance.
    • He envisions these spirits as flowers, which are "folded blooms." So, Tennyson is using the image of flowers that fold up during the night and then open up into blooms during the day to represent the spirits of the departed.
    • Such a scenario would mean no living memories would be lost when someone dies.
    • Tennyson here imagines a sort of "garden of souls" made up of napping, happy little flowers that exist outside of time. This is a nice, peaceful image of nature (compared to some of the more hostile ones we've seen so far, like the yew tree and the sea).
    • After they die, people would just sleep—with all their memories intact—until they awaken to life-after-death. He represents this with the "dawning soul."
    • The love between Tennyson and Arthur wouldn't be lost after all.
  • Canto 44

    Lines 873-888

    How fares it with the happy dead?

      For here the man is more and more;
      But he forgets the days before
    God shut the doorways of his head.

    The days have vanish'd, tone and tint,
      And yet perhaps the hoarding sense
      Gives out at times (he knows not whence)
    A little flash, a mystic hint;

    And in the long harmonious years
      (If Death so taste Lethean springs),
      May some dim touch of earthly things
    Surprise thee ranging with thy peers.

    If such a dreamy touch should fall,
      O, turn thee round, resolve the doubt;
       My guardian angel will speak out
    In that high place, and tell thee all.

    • "Happy" can mean two things here: 1) full of joy or extreme contentment, or 2) fortunate. So, the happy (or fortunate) living people (those who are "here") grow in their abilities and their minds.
    • But people forget the time "before God shut the doorways" of our heads. Um…what in the world does this mean?
    • Well, think about babies. You have to be really careful with their heads because they have soft spots, or "fontanels."
    • These are places where the skull bones haven't grown together yet.
    • Tennyson is poetically saying that we forget things that happen to us when we are babies.
    • Sometimes, though, we might get brief flash of memory (not flash memory) of our previous lives.
    • Remember when Tennyson used "flash" in Canto 41? There's a sense of urgency in the idea of things "flashing" or appearing immediately or unconsciously.
    • Similarly, once we die and forget our mortal lives because we have to drink from Lethe (the river of forgetfulness in Greek mythology), we might only recall some memories from when we lived.
    • Tennyson doesn't want the river's "dreamy touch" to affect Arthur. He wants his friend to be able to remember him.
    • He considers Arthur his "guardian angel" who will speak of him in Heaven and not forget him.
  • Canto 45

    Lines 889-904

    The baby new to earth and sky,
       What time his tender palm is prest
       Against the circle of the breast,
    Has never thought that "this is I:"

    But as he grows he gathers much,
       And learns the use of "I," and "me,"
       And finds "I am not what I see,
    And other than the things I touch."

    So rounds he to a separate mind
       From whence clear memory may begin,
      As thro' the frame that binds him in
    His isolation grows defined.

    This use may lie in blood and breath,
       Which else were fruitless of their due,
       Had man to learn himself anew
    Beyond the second birth of Death.

    • A new baby has no concept that he is a separate, individual being from others. That's why he has no problem demanding (loudly and stink-ily) to have everyone wait on him hand and foot, right?
    • As the baby gets older, though, he starts to understand that he is an "I" and starts to separate himself from the "not me" things that he sees and touches.
    • At this point, the baby starts to develop a memory (presumably after the soft spots mentioned in the previous canto have closed up).
    • Tennyson points out in the last stanza that living would be worthless if memory is wiped out after death. You see, he's really, really, really hoping that Arthur hasn't forgotten about him up in Heaven.
  • Canto 46

    Lines 905-920

    We ranging down this lower track,
       The path we came by, thorn and flower,
       Is shadow'd by the growing hour,
    Lest life should fail in looking back.

    So be it: there no shade can last
       In that deep dawn behind the tomb,
       But clear from marge to marge shall bloom
    The eternal landscape of the past;

    A lifelong tract of time reveal'd;
       The fruitful hours of still increase;
       Days order'd in a wealthy peace,
    And those five years its richest field.

    O Love, thy province were not large,
       A bounded field, nor stretching far;
       Look also, Love, a brooding star,
    A rosy warmth from marge to marge.

    • Human memory is imperfect. The image of shadows created by the "growing hour" emphasizes that, eventually, when you look back you won't remember everything.
    • Tennyson seems to be consoled, though, that "behind the tomb" (wherever people end up after they die) there's no shade.
    • (Once again, light and dark are super-important here. If you've forgotten what this imagery might mean in the poem, better look at "Symbols, Imagery, Wordplay" again for quick refresher.)
    • Instead, the speaker imagines that in the afterlife, memory is like a continuous and eternal landscape. He continues this metaphor for the next three stanzas, developing it as an abundant landscape from edge to edge ("marge" means "edge" or "limit").
    • The five years that he knew Arthur is described as the "richest field," so the most filled up area of the landscape.
    • Even though the area wasn't large, since five years isn't that long in the grand scheme of things, it was a significant five years. The field that represents their friendship in Tennyson's imagination is looked over by a star that casts a "rosy warmth" across the entire field from edge to edge.
  • Canto 47

    Lines 921-936

    That each, who seems a separate whole,
       Should move his rounds, and fusing all
       The skirts of self again, should fall
    Remerging in the general Soul,

    Is faith as vague as all unsweet:
       Eternal form shall still divide
       The eternal soul from all beside;
    And I shall know him when we meet:

    And we shall sit at endless feast,
       Enjoying each the other's good:
       What vaster dream can hit the mood
    Of Love on earth? He seeks at least

    Upon the last and sharpest height,
       Before the spirits fade away,
       Some landing-place, to clasp and say,
    "Farewell! We lose ourselves in light."

    • The idea that each person will recognize himself as a separate being while alive, but then merge back into a general Soul that sounds suspiciously like the Borg Collective is a doctrine ("faith") that doesn't sound too good to Tennyson.
    • He professes that there's something about the form or individual soul that remains separate from the eternal one, and that he'll be able to recognize Arthur in the afterlife. The two will enjoy each other's company forever—what more can anyone hope?
    • At the very least, if there is this Borg-like One-Soul at the end of things, people ("he" is used universally here) want a moment to say good-bye before they are assimilated.
    • There's that "light" again. Even though Tennyson is faced with the proposition of an impersonal One-Soul in Heaven, at least it's something positive—suggested by light instead of darkness here.
  • Canto 48

    Lines 937-952

    If these brief lays, of Sorrow born,
      Were taken to be such as closed
       Grave doubts and answers here proposed,
    Then these were such as men might scorn:

    Her care is not to part and prove;
       She takes, when harsher moods remit,
       What slender shade of doubt may flit,
    And makes it vassal unto love:

    And hence, indeed, she sports with words,
       But better serves a wholesome law,
       And holds it sin and shame to draw
    The deepest measure from the chords:

    Nor dare she trust a larger lay,
       But rather loosens from the lip
       Short swallow-flights of song, that dip
    Their wings in tears, and skim away.

    • Tennyson now talks about how his sorrowful "lays" (which is an old-timey word for "songs") are not meant as solutions to these great cosmic questions. If so, then men might rightfully laugh at them.
    • Instead, she (that's the personified Sorrow) takes the speaker's doubts and make them a servant to his love for Arthur.
    • "Vassal" means "servant," and is used a lot in medieval courtly love poetry. Again, he's describing his powerful feelings for Arthur in terms of a relationship between two lovers.
    • Sorrow is guiding him to write this poem, but she only allows him to write in short spurts.
    • The words that she inspires are imagined by Tennyson as birds that briefly dip their wings in tears and then fly away—so sad.
  • Canto 49

    Lines 953-968

    From art, from nature, from the schools,
       Let random influences glance,
       Like light in many a shiver'd lance
    That breaks about the dappled pools:

    The lightest wave of thought shall lisp,
       The fancy's tenderest eddy wreathe,
       The slightest air of song shall breathe
    To make the sullen surface crisp.

    And look thy look, and go thy way,
       But blame not thou the winds that make
       The seeming-wanton ripple break,
    The tender-pencil'd shadow play.

    Beneath all fancied hopes and fears
       Ay me, the sorrow deepens down,
       Whose muffled motions blindly drown
    The bases of my life in tears.

    • Art, nature, and philosophy ("schools" here meaning "schools of philosophy") can't touch him. They just "glance" off of him.
    • This means they briefly hit him and then bounce off exactly like a lance of light can't penetrate a pool of water, but instead just reflects off of it.
    • Nothing can get to him right now as much as his sorrow. If you don't believe us, check out his "Ay me" in the last stanza.
    • This is an archaic expression of lament. Sort of like, "Alas! Why dost this happenst to me?"
    • All of the foundations of his life are drowned in tears—major bummer.
  • Canto 50

    Lines 969-984

    Be near me when my light is low,
      When the blood creeps, and the nerves prick
      And tingle; and the heart is sick,
    And all the wheels of Being slow.

    Be near me when the sensuous frame
      Is rack'd with pangs that conquer trust;
      And Time, a maniac scattering dust,
    And Life, a Fury slinging flame.

    Be near me when my faith is dry,
       And men the flies of latter spring,
       That lay their eggs, and sting and sing
    And weave their petty cells and die.

    Be near me when I fade away,
       To point the term of human strife,
       And on the low dark verge of life
    The twilight of eternal day.

    • Tennyson's getting all commanding in this canto, so it seems to signal a shift from doubts and the way he's been juggling ideas of rebirth and resurrection to...something else. We don't quite have enough info yet.
    • Each stanza here starts with "Be near me" (that's more anaphora for you). We're going to drop some more grammar on you. This form of the verb is called the imperative, which means the command form. In other words, the speaker is ordering the spirit of Arthur around.
    • First, he commands Arthur's spirit to be with him when he's slow and sluggish and not feeling very well.
    • Next, he orders him to be around when he's being tortured ("rack'd") with doubt. When this happens, time seems to move quickly, and life feels like someone taking revenge out on him. (Don't know what a Fury is? Better check "Allusions" stat.)
    • He's appealing to Arthur to be with him as he contemplates the utter meaninglessness of life. He's going full emo in the third stanza. He compares men to flies laying eggs (um...eww) and suggests by this image that their actions are just as petty as when the flies go about their business and soon die.
    • Finally, he demands that Arthur be with him as he dies, so that he can guide him from his earthly existence to whatever immortal realms might lie beyond.
  • Canto 51

    Lines 985-1000

    Do we indeed desire the dead
       Should still be near us at our side?
       Is there no baseness we would hide?
    No inner vileness that we dread?

    Shall he for whose applause I strove,
       I had such reverence for his blame,
       See with clear eye some hidden shame
    And I be lessen'd in his love?

    I wrong the grave with fears untrue:
       Shall love be blamed for want of faith?
       There must be wisdom with great Death:
    The dead shall look me thro' and thro'.

    Be near us when we climb or fall:
       Ye watch, like God, the rolling hours
      With larger other eyes than ours,
    To make allowance for us all.

    • Now, the speaker starts to get scared that his dead friend's spirit will be able to see some bad things about him.
    • Maybe living people can't hide their inner sins or bad thoughts from them, and that might make Tennyson seem less worthy in Arthur's eyes.
    • The dead, Tennyson suggests, gain a kind of supernatural wisdom after dying, which allows them to see into people's innermost beings.
    • But they're kind of like God now and have "larger other eyes" than those that mere mortals have.
    • This is a freaky image—that the dead have huge, piercing eyes—but there's an upside: they "make allowance" for people, which means they aren't too judgy.
  • Canto 52

    Lines 1001-1016

    I cannot love thee as I ought,
       For love reflects the thing beloved;
       My words are only words, and moved
    Upon the topmost froth of thought.

    "Yet blame not thou thy plaintive song,"
       The Spirit of true love replied;
       "Thou canst not move me from thy side,
    Nor human frailty do me wrong.

    "What keeps a spirit wholly true
       To that ideal which he bears?
       What record? not the sinless years
    That breathed beneath the Syrian blue:

    "So fret not, like an idle girl,
       That life is dash'd with flecks of sin.
       Abide: thy wealth is gather'd in,
    When Time hath sunder'd shell from pearl."

    • This first stanza seems to suggest that the speaker is unable to love Arthur (now the spirit-Arthur) as he should.
    • "[L]ove reflects the thing beloved," and since Arthur is so much higher than Tennyson now (literally and figuratively), his (Tennyson's) words can only reflect the surface.
    • This is nicely presented as a thought floating on the top of ocean waves, which is suggested by "topmost froth" in the first stanza.
    • Love kind of scolds Tennyson for this thought, and tells him that he won't get rid of her that easily, silly mortal man.
    • She tells him to not worry like a little girl that he has sinned during his life. At the end of time, his worth will be revealed like a pearl, and his sins will be like the oyster shell that has been worn away.
    • So, maybe "the Spirit of true love" in the second stanza is Jesus and not the spirit of secular love. Or maybe Tennyson is working on both levels.
    • Yeah—better go with the second option.
  • Canto 53

    Lines 1017-1032

    How many a father have I seen,
       A sober man, among his boys,
       Whose youth was full of foolish noise,
    Who wears his manhood hale and green:

    And dare we to this fancy give,
       That had the wild oat not been sown,
       The soil, left barren, scarce had grown
    The grain by which a man may live?

    Or, if we held the doctrine sound
       For life outliving heats of youth,
       Yet who would preach it as a truth
    To those that eddy round and round?

    Hold thou the good: define it well:
       For fear divine Philosophy
       Should push beyond her mark, and be
    Procuress to the Lords of Hell.

    • The speaker has seen many fathers who are now upright ("sober") men, but in their youth were a bit wild. Yet they pretend that they were goody two-shoes.
    • But if they had not sewn their wild oats (which means to get a bit wild now and then), then the soil that they would grow from would remain barren.
    • Tennyson is basically saying that if you don't commit some sins, you won't learn. Experiences, which include doing the wrong things from time to time, are what make you who you are. To know good, you must know bad, so define the good for yourself.
    • Otherwise, you're going to live in fear and overthink it ("divine Philosophy" here just means "philosophizing" about it too much), which will get you into real trouble.
    • Overthinking is presented as a "procuress," which means a madam. And we don't mean this in the French way, as a polite form of address.
    • We mean the type of madam that is basically a female pimp. So, overthinking things will lead you right to…Hell.
  • Canto 54

    Lines 1033-1052

    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.

    • This canto is all about purpose. It is human nature to believe that everything is for the good, and that everything has a purpose, down to even a worm being cut in half.
    • The speaker, though, laments that humans can never really know anything. We're just great big babies who cry out in the night. We don't know who we are or what we are, and we don't even have a way to express ourselves other than inarticulate bawling. Feel better about yourself yet?
  • Canto 55

    Lines 1053-1072

    The wish, that of the living whole
       No life may fail beyond the grave,
       Derives it not from what we have
    The likest God within the soul?

    Are God and Nature then at strife,
       That Nature lends such evil dreams?
       So careful of the type she seems,
    So careless of the single life;

    That I, considering everywhere
       Her secret meaning in her deeds,
       And finding that of fifty seeds
    She often brings but one to bear,

    I falter where I firmly trod,
       And falling with my weight of cares
       Upon the great world's altar-stairs
    That slope thro' darkness up to God,

    I stretch lame hands of faith, and grope,
      And gather dust and chaff, and call
      To what I feel is Lord of all,
    And faintly trust the larger hope.

    • The yearning that people have that the totality of humanity will have an afterlife comes from the soul, which is like God.
    • Tennyson then questions if God and Nature (meaning the natural world...meaning science) are at odds, because Nature doesn't seem particularly careful about life in general.
    • She's "careful of the type." If you're not sure what "type" means, it's scientific jargon that was used during the Victorian period to signify "species." So, Nature is protective of species, but couldn't care less about individuals from that species.
    • Tennyson highlights this by noting that out of fifty seeds, only one turns out to be a plant.
    • Those aren't very good odds, people.
    • Is it any wonder, then, that the speaker is now experiencing doubts? He's looking around the world and seeing how cruel nature is, so now his doubts relating to faith are even worse.
    • He's now "falter[ing]" where once he strode confidently.
    • He describes his struggle as a groping through the darkness toward God. This is figurative—his journey upon the "altar-stairs" is not meant to be a physical journey. It's just his journey back to faith.
    • The "lame hands of faith" in the last stanza continue the helpless image of the inarticulate infant from the previous canto.
    • At the end of this canto, the speaker seems to be a bit more secure in his faith. He's at least starting to have some hope.
    • Did you notice how he's struggling with more cosmic issues relating to man's place in the natural and spiritual worlds?
    • Maybe that shift that we noticed around Canto 50 is heading more in this direction. Onward to find out…
  • Canto 56

    Lines 1073-1100

    "So careful of the type?" but no.
       From scarped cliff and quarried stone
       She cries, "A thousand types are gone:
    I care for nothing, all shall go.

    "Thou makest thine appeal to me:
       I bring to life, I bring to death:
       The spirit does but mean the breath:
    I know no more." And he, shall he,

    Man, her last work, who seem'd so fair,
       Such splendid purpose in his eyes,
       Who roll'd the psalm to wintry skies,
    Who built him fanes of fruitless prayer,

    Who trusted God was love indeed
      And love Creation's final law—
      Tho' Nature, red in tooth and claw
    With ravine, shriek'd against his creed—

    Who loved, who suffer'd countless ills,
      Who battled for the True, the Just,
      Be blown about the desert dust,
    Or seal'd within the iron hills?

    No more? A monster then, a dream,
       A discord. Dragons of the prime,
       That tare each other in their slime,
    Were mellow music match'd with him.

    O life as futile, then, as frail!
       O for thy voice to soothe and bless!
       What hope of answer, or redress?
    Behind the veil, behind the veil.

    • Bingo—the cosmic struggle we noticed in the previous canto seems to be very much on the agenda here.
    • Before, the speaker thought Nature was protective of whole species, but here he changes his mind and thinks, "Silly me! She doesn't even care about that!"
    • He gets his evidence from "scarped cliff and quarried stone." (If you're thinking this sound an awful lot like an archeological dig, you're right. Remember: Darwin's Theory of Evolution and other scientific discoveries are on people's radar during the Victorian period like nobody's biz.)
    • The "scarped cliff" (which means a fracture in the earth's crust, or escarpment) and "quarried stone" are places where fossils are found.
    • Studying this evidence showed scientists back then that many, many "types" (species) have been lost over time.
    • So, if that's the case, Nature doesn't really give a fig for the species.
    • And that's a terrifying thought, one that emphasizes the idea of Nature being an antagonistic force against puny human beings—which Tennyson has returned to several times in the poem.
    • The speaker notes that humankind is Nature's last work (and the greatest, it's suggested).
    • Man (meaning all of humanity) seemed to have a purpose, and built churches (a "fane" is an archaic word for a church), sang psalms (songs of religious praise), and trusted in the divine love of God. But all of this is in vain.
    • Another Famous Line Alert: all of this is because Nature is "red in tooth and claw" and "shrieks" against this divine love. Violent image? You betcha.
    • Is the fate of humans then to be true and just and suffer, and then to just turn to dust and be fossils themselves ("seal'd within the iron hills")? Is there nothing more for mankind?
    • Notice how the speaker seems to get more frantic over these two stanzas. He's speaking in short, choppy phrases, with lots of internal stops within lines and tons of question marks.
    • His uncertainty and despair culminates in the penultimate stanza. He sees monsters tearing each other apart in the slime. (Another archaic word: "tare" is the past tense of "tear.")
    • In the final stanza, he's really in despair mode, calling out to the spirit of Arthur to make him feel better, and acknowledging that any hope for making sense out of all of this only exists in the afterlife ("after the veil").
  • Canto 57

    Lines 1101-1116

    Peace; come away: the song of woe
       Is after all an earthly song:
       Peace; come away: we do him wrong
    To sing so wildly: let us go.

    Come; let us go: your cheeks are pale;
       But half my life I leave behind:
       Methinks my friend is richly shrined;
    But I shall pass; my work will fail.

    Yet in these ears, till hearing dies,
       One set slow bell will seem to toll
       The passing of the sweetest soul
    That ever look'd with human eyes.

    I hear it now, and o'er and o'er,
       Eternal greetings to the dead;
       And "Ave, Ave, Ave," said,
    "Adieu, adieu," for evermore.

    • Oh, Tennyson. You're talking to yourself again. Or maybe he's talking to someone else that he has brought to Arthur's grave?
    • At any rate, he's telling himself (or this other person) to be quiet. "Peace" means "hush up!"
    • They're disturbing his grave with their wild grief.
    • He leaves behind something so important to him, though, that it's almost like "half his life."
    • Until he cannot hear anything anymore (so, basically until Tennyson dies), he'll hear the bell that tolls for the totally-sweetest guy who ever existed.
    • The bell continually says, "Hello" ("Ave," which is a Latin greeting) and "Good-bye" forever and ever—sniff.
  • Canto 58

    Lines 1117-1128

    In those sad words I took farewell:
       Like echoes in sepulchral halls,
       As drop by drop the water falls
    In vaults and catacombs, they fell;

    And, falling, idly broke the peace
       Of hearts that beat from day to day,
       Half-conscious of their dying clay,
    And those cold crypts where they shall cease.

    The high Muse answer'd: "Wherefore grieve
       Thy brethren with a fruitless tear?
       Abide a little longer here,
    And thou shalt take a nobler leave."

    • Now, Tennyson is leaving his friend's gravesite. If you're interested in all of the cemetery-like imagery here—and you should be—head on over to "Symbols, Imagery, Wordplay."
    • His Muse seems to comfort him a bit by telling him that something "nobler" will come out of all this, so stop crying all over the place.
    • And since the muses were inspirational spirits for art, scholarship, and music, we can assume that this means In Memoriam itself will be the "nobler leave" the Muse refers to.
    • See, previously the speaker has conceived of his poem as just pieces. He "break[s] into song by fits" (486) or creates "short swallow flights" of song (951).
    • Now, he starts to see how this all might be linking up into a greater whole.
  • Canto 59

    Lines 1129-1144

    O Sorrow, wilt thou live with me
       No casual mistress, but a wife,
       My bosom-friend and half of life;
    As I confess it needs must be;

    O Sorrow, wilt thou rule my blood,
       Be sometimes lovely like a bride,
       And put thy harsher moods aside,
    If thou wilt have me wise and good.

    My centred passion cannot move,
       Nor will it lessen from to-day;
       But I'll have leave at times to play
    As with the creature of my love;

    And set thee forth, for thou art mine,
       With so much hope for years to come,
       That, howsoe'er I know thee, some
    Could hardly tell what name were thine.

    • Once again, the speaker is getting his apostrophe on. This time, he's addressing Sorrow (his Muse), and asks that she live with him like a wife.
    • In other words, he's asking her to always stay with him so he'll be able to write—in particular, about Arthur. It seems like that's what "I'll have leave at times to play" means.
  • Canto 60

    Lines 1145-1160

    He past; a soul of nobler tone:
       My spirit loved and loves him yet,
       Like some poor girl whose heart is set
    On one whose rank exceeds her own.

    He mixing with his proper sphere,
       She finds the baseness of her lot,
       Half jealous of she knows not what,
    And envying all that meet him there.

    The little village looks forlorn;
       She sighs amid her narrow days,
       Moving about the household ways,
    In that dark house where she was born.

    The foolish neighbors come and go,
       And tease her till the day draws by:
       At night she weeps, "How vain am I!
    How should he love a thing so low?"

    • The speaker acknowledges how Arthur has passed on and is now on a higher plane than he is. Arthur is now "mixing with his proper sphere" up in Heaven, not slumming it with people like Tenny down on the earthly plane.
    • Then he gives us yet another extended metaphor that presents their friendship in terms of a male-female love match.
    • Tennyson is like a love-sick girl who has fallen hard for a guy who is way above her in social station. This is totally like the basketcase-jock hook-up in The Breakfast Club.
  • Canto 61

    Lines 1161-1172

    If, in thy second state sublime,
       Thy ransom'd reason change replies
       With all the circle of the wise,
    The perfect flower of human time;

    And if thou cast thine eyes below,
       How dimly character'd and slight,
       How dwarf'd a growth of cold and night,
    How blanch'd with darkness must I grow!

    Yet turn thee to the doubtful shore,
       Where thy first form was made a man;
       I loved thee, Spirit, and love, nor can
    The soul of Shakespeare love thee more.

    • Tennyson imagines Arthur watching him from Heaven in his perfected state ("state sublime").
    • He imagines his close friend hob-nobbing with all the fancy intellectual elites who are with him up there. That's the whole "circle of the wise" that Tennyson regards as being the highest perfection of humanity.
    • If Arthur looks down on him, he'll seem pretty low compared to those other guys.
    • The images he uses here really drive this point home. He's "dimly character'd," "slight" (which means small and insubstantial), and like a dwarf.
    • But Tennyson's got something going for him that all these other wise souls—including Shakespeare—don't: his love for Arthur. That will never be equaled.
  • Canto 62

    Lines 1173-1184

    Tho' if an eye that's downward cast
       Could make thee somewhat blench or fail,
       Then be my love an idle tale,
    And fading legend of the past;

    And thou, as one that once declined,
       When he was little more than boy,
       On some unworthy heart with joy,
    But lives to wed an equal mind;

    And breathes a novel world, the while
       His other passion wholly dies,
       Or in the light of deeper eyes
    Is matter for a flying smile.

    • The first stanza here is basically saying: "Dude. If my acting all emo down here seems to you like a total fail, then just go on. Forget about me."
    • Eventually, the two will be reunited again like two people of equal minds getting married, with one previously refusing to marry someone unworthy.
    •, were these guys just friends? Really—what's up with this?
    • Let's read on…
  • Canto 63

    Lines 1185-1196

    Yet pity for a horse o'er-driven,
       And love in which my hound has part,
       Can hang no weight upon my heart
    In its assumptions up to heaven;

    And I am so much more than these,
       As thou, perchance, art more than I,
       And yet I spare them sympathy,
    And I would set their pains at ease.

    So mayst thou watch me where I weep,
       As, unto vaster motions bound,
       The circuits of thine orbit round
    A higher height, a deeper deep.

    • Tennyson loves his overworked horse and his dog, and this love doesn't interfere with his higher goals.
    • He's setting up an analogy: if he can love his animals without it interfering with his journey to higher things, then Arthur's spirit loving him shouldn't stop him (Arthur) from getting to higher things in Heaven.
    • It's kind of like one of those analogies you see on the SAT—Tennyson : a horse or a dog :: Arthur : some kind of heavenly creature. And Tennyson's better than a horse or a dog (we hope).
  • Canto 64

    Lines 1197-1224

    Dost thou look back on what hath been,
       As some divinely gifted man,
       Whose life in low estate began
    And on a simple village green;

    Who breaks his birth's invidious bar,
      And grasps the skirts of happy chance,
      And breasts the blows of circumstance,
    And grapples with his evil star;

    Who makes by force his merit known
      And lives to clutch the golden keys,
      To mould a mighty state's decrees,
    And shape the whisper of the throne;

    And moving up from high to higher,
      Becomes on Fortune's crowning slope
      The pillar of a people's hope,
    The centre of a world's desire;

    Yet feels, as in a pensive dream,
      When all his active powers are still,
      A distant dearness in the hill,
    A secret sweetness in the stream,

    The limit of his narrower fate,
      While yet beside its vocal springs
      He play'd at counsellors and kings,
    With one that was his earliest mate;

    Who ploughs with pain his native lea
      And reaps the labour of his hands,
      Or in the furrow musing stands;
    "Does my old friend remember me?"

    • Here's another metaphor that Tennyson plays with to show us the difference that now exists (or even previously existed?) between him and Arthur.
    • Arthur's life was like someone who started off simply and then, through a combination of good luck and struggling against misfortune ("evil star"), ended up achieving great things. It's a bit like the whole "American Dream" trope, but only all English-y.
    • The one left behind back in the village (that would be Tennyson in this analogy) always wonders, "Does my friend, who is now this great and important guy, remember me?"
  • Canto 65

    Lines 1225-1236

    Sweet soul, do with me as thou wilt;
       I lull a fancy trouble-tost
       With "Love's too precious to be lost,
    A little grain shall not be spilt."

    And in that solace can I sing,
       Till out of painful phases wrought
       There flutters up a happy thought,
    Self-balanced on a lightsome wing:

    Since we deserved the name of friends,
       And thine effect so lives in me,
       A part of mine may live in thee
    And move thee on to noble ends.

    • The speaker tells Arthur's spirit (the "sweet soul") to do with him what he will, and that his imagination is being affected by his sadness.
    • Love, he concludes, is too great for Arthur to forget about him. This seems to comfort Tennyson, who claims that from this comfort he will "sing," or write his poem.
    • In fact, this poem will be the way that Arthur's memory will live on through Tennyson.
  • Canto 66

    Lines 1237-1252

    You thought my heart too far diseased;
       You wonder when my fancies play
       To find me gay among the gay,
    Like one with any trifle pleased.

    The shade by which my life was crost,
       Which makes a desert in the mind,
       Has made me kindly with my kind,
    And like to him whose sight is lost;

    Whose feet are guided thro' the land,
       Whose jest among his friends is free,
       Who takes the children on his knee,
    And winds their curls about his hand:

    He plays with threads, he beats his chair
       For pastime, dreaming of the sky;
       His inner day can never die,
    His night of loss is always there.

    • Tennyson is now speaking to another person, but we can't be sure who that is. It's definitely someone who has worried about his extreme sadness, so maybe another close friend or a family member.
    • He's explaining to this person that his grief—which has "crost" his life (meaning, has completely had an effect on every aspect of his being)—has both made him friendly with his fellow man ("kind") and made him like a blind man.
    • A blind man has to be guided everywhere, and while he can seem happy and take comfort in being sociable with family and friends, he is still totally affected by his blindness.
    • Or, in this case, Tennyson's grief at losing Arthur—the "night of loss"—will never go away.
  • Canto 67

    Lines 1253-1268

    When on my bed the moonlight falls,
       I know that in thy place of rest
       By that broad water of the west,
    There comes a glory on the walls;

    Thy marble bright in dark appears,
       As slowly steals a silver flame
       Along the letters of thy name,
    And o'er the number of thy years.

    The mystic glory swims away;
       From off my bed the moonlight dies;
       And closing eaves of wearied eyes
    I sleep till dusk is dipt in gray;

    And then I know the mist is drawn
       A lucid veil from coast to coast,
       And in the dark church like a ghost
    Thy tablet glimmers to the dawn.

    • We get more light and dark imagery, folks.
    • Tennyson envisions moonlight falling on Arthur's grave and lighting up his name carved into the gravestone, along with the dates of his birth and death. That same moonlight is also falling on Tennyson's chamber. Maybe the speaker takes some comfort in this?
    • The coming day also shines over both of them, but no—there doesn't seem to be much comfort here.
    • Check out how Tennyson uses imagery relating to "gray" (which we're sure you'll agree is a dreary, lifeless color), "dark," and "ghost[s]." These aren't upbeat images, folks.
  • Canto 68

    Lines 1269-1284

    When in the down I sink my head,
       Sleep, Death's twin-brother, times my breath;
       Sleep, Death's twin-brother, knows not Death,
    Nor can I dream of thee as dead:

    I walk as ere I walk'd forlorn,
       When all our path was fresh with dew,
       And all the bugle breezes blew
    Reveill´e to the breaking morn.

    But what is this? I turn about,
       I find a trouble in thine eye,
       Which makes me sad I know not why,
    Nor can my dream resolve the doubt:

    But ere the lark hath left the lea
       I wake, and I discern the truth;
       It is the trouble of my youth
    That foolish sleep transfers to thee.

    • When Tennyson sleeps, he can forget. Notice how he equates sleep and death here. They are "twin-brother[s]," so when Tennyson sleeps it's kind of like death. He doesn't know Arthur is gone. During these times, what he doesn't know literally won't hurt him.
    • He dreams of walking with Arthur way back when, when they were first starting their friendship. Tennyson emphasizes this with images relating to beginnings: "fresh with dew," "Reveill'e" (which is the bugle song played to wake people up in the morning), and the dawning of a new morning.
    • In this dream, he notices that Arthur is sad, and this in turn makes him sad.
    • When he wakes, though, he realizes that it was just his own sadness that he was transferring onto the dream-Arthur.
  • Canto 69

    Lines 1285-1304

    I dream'd there would be Spring no more,
       That Nature's ancient power was lost:
       The streets were black with smoke and frost,
    They chatter'd trifles at the door:

    I wander'd from the noisy town,
       I found a wood with thorny boughs:
       I took the thorns to bind my brows,
    I wore them like a civic crown:

    I met with scoffs, I met with scorns
       From youth and babe and hoary hairs:
       They call'd me in the public squares
    The fool that wears a crown of thorns:

    They call'd me fool, they call'd me child:
       I found an angel of the night;
       The voice was low, the look was bright;
    He look'd upon my crown and smiled:

    He reach'd the glory of a hand,
       That seem'd to touch it into leaf:
       The voice was not the voice of grief,
    The words were hard to understand.

    • Now Tennyson's channeling Leslie Knope, because we're apparently getting some of Tennyson's kindergarten dream journal.
    • This time, he dreams that Nature herself has stopped working and spring doesn't come when it's supposed to.
    • The speaker wanders through a town where people cruelly make fun of him.
    • He's wearing a "crown of thorns," you say? Well, who does that sound like? Yep—The Big Guy himself: Jesus.
    • Here, Tennyson feels persecuted in his dream, like Jesus. It may also link him to Jesus in another way: being a martyr for some cause. He's suffering because he mourns for Arthur's death, and people are making fun of him for it—stupid, mean people.
    • An angel comes on the scene and smiles at him, and also says something that the speaker can't understand.
    • It seems like the angel approves of his grief. Maybe the angel is supposed to be Arthur's spirit? At any rate, when the angel touches the crown of thorns on Tennyson's head, it turns "into leaf," another image of renewal and rebirth.
  • Canto 70

    Lines 1305-1320

    I cannot see the features right,
       When on the gloom I strive to paint
       The face I know; the hues are faint
    And mix with hollow masks of night;

    Cloud-towers by ghostly masons wrought,
       A gulf that ever shuts and gapes,
       A hand that points, and palled shapes
    In shadowy thoroughfares of thought;

    And crowds that stream from yawning doors,
       And shoals of pucker'd faces drive;
       Dark bulks that tumble half alive,
    And lazy lengths on boundless shores;

    Till all at once beyond the will
       I hear a wizard music roll,
       And thro' a lattice on the soul
    Looks thy fair face and makes it still.

    • What could be worse than not being able to remember what someone really important to you looked like? Probably not much.
    • This is what's happening to Tennyson right now. He's having a hard time remembering what Arthur looked like. This is a common thing that happens when someone close to you dies—or even if you just haven't seen someone in a long time. You have a difficult time remembering his or her face.
    • It's only at night (in dreams?) that Tennyson is able to really remember his friend's features clearly.
  • Canto 71

    Lines 1321-1336

    Sleep, kinsman thou to death and trance
       And madness, thou hast forged at last
       A night-long Present of the Past
    In which we went thro' summer France.

    Hadst thou such credit with the soul?
       Then bring an opiate trebly strong,
       Drug down the blindfold sense of wrong
    That so my pleasure may be whole;

    While now we talk as once we talk'd
       Of men and minds, the dust of change,
       The days that grow to something strange,
    In walking as of old we walk'd

    Beside the river's wooded reach,
       The fortress, and the mountain ridge,
       The cataract flashing from the bridge,
    The breaker breaking on the beach.

    • Now Tennyson characterizes sleep not only as death, but also as insanity and "trance" (no—not the style of music, but, rather, kind of like being hypnotized).
    • In his dream, he's remembering a trip he took to France with his close friend and various things they did while there.
    • He wonders in the second stanza if Arthur has a kind of mystical power to recall this pleasurable trip to him while he's asleep. It's described as being a sort of drug-induced high caused by an "opiate."
  • Canto 72

    Lines 1337-1364

    Risest thou thus, dim dawn, again,
       And howlest, issuing out of night,
       With blasts that blow the poplar white,
    And lash with storm the streaming pane?

    Day, when my crown'd estate begun
       To pine in that reverse of doom,
       Which sicken'd every living bloom,
    And blurr'd the splendour of the sun;

    Who usherest in the dolorous hour
       With thy quick tears that make the rose
       Pull sideways, and the daisy close
    Her crimson fringes to the shower;

    Who might'st have heaved a windless flame
       Up the deep East, or, whispering, play'd
       A chequer-work of beam and shade
    Along the hills, yet look'd the same.

    As wan, as chill, as wild as now;
       Day, mark'd as with some hideous crime,
       When the dark hand struck down thro' time,
    And cancell'd nature's best: but thou,

    Lift as thou may'st thy burthen'd brows
       Thro' clouds that drench the morning star,
       And whirl the ungarner'd sheaf afar,
    And sow the sky with flying boughs,

    And up thy vault with roaring sound
       Climb thy thick noon, disastrous day;
       Touch thy dull goal of joyless gray,
    And hide thy shame beneath the ground.

    • The speaker is in an especially despairing mood on this day, which appears to be the anniversary of Arthur's death.
    • It's a day when Tennyson's "crown'd estate" began to "pine in that reverse of doom." So, this is the day when his intellect or mind began to sorrow for Arthur's death—to the extent that flowers aren't pretty for him anymore and the sun has basically gone out.
    • He also describes it as a day that is "mark'd as with some hideous crime." Because of this, he just wants to get this day over with as fast as he possibly can.
  • Canto 73

    Lines 1365-1380

    So many worlds, so much to do,
       So little done, such things to be,
       How know I what had need of thee,
    For thou wert strong as thou wert true?

    The fame is quench'd that I foresaw,
       The head hath miss'd an earthly wreath:
       I curse not nature, no, nor death;
    For nothing is that errs from law.

    We pass; the path that each man trod
       Is dim, or will be dim, with weeds:
       What fame is left for human deeds
    In endless age? It rests with God.

    O hollow wraith of dying fame,
       Fade wholly, while the soul exults,
       And self-infolds the large results
    Of force that would have forged a name.

    • There's so many worlds and so much to do, the speaker remarks.
    • He acknowledges that he has no idea if Arthur had a higher purpose, if something or someone else out there needed him for something.
    • The fame or great reputation that Tennyson thought he saw for Arthur has been extinguished.
    • Plus, Arthur isn't getting an "earthly wreath." We think this means he's not going to be figuratively crowned with laurel, a gesture of honor or victory in ancient Greece. (In fact, it will be Tennyson who will wear a figurative laurel crown when he's made Poet Laureate of England.)
    • He can't be angry with nature, or even with death itself, for taking Arthur away because these two forces have to follow a law—presumably one that is set down by God.
    • Only God knows that for sure what will be left over of human deeds in the afterlife: "It rests with God."
  • Canto 74

    Lines 1381-1392

    As sometimes in a dead man's face,
       To those that watch it more and more,
       A likeness, hardly seen before,
    Comes out—to some one of his race:

    So, dearest, now thy brows are cold,
       I see thee what thou art, and know
       Thy likeness to the wise below,
    Thy kindred with the great of old.

    But there is more than I can see,
       And what I see I leave unsaid,
       Nor speak it, knowing Death has made
    His darkness beautiful with thee.

    • You know how, when you stare at someone's face for a long time (or your own reflection in a mirror), the person (or you) starts to look weird and maybe even like another person?
    • Well, that's what the speaker is getting at in this first stanza here. And this totally goes along with what was happening back in Canto 70, when Tennyson wasn't able to remember what Arthur looked like.
    • This time, though, he's starting to see something or someone else there when he thinks of Arthur's face. But wait—he's seeing something of "the wise below" in his friend.
    • Okay, we're in figurative territory here. He's seeing similarities between Arthur and the great, wise dudes who have lived in the past.
  • Canto 75

    Lines 1393-1412

    I leave thy praises unexpress'd
       In verse that brings myself relief,
       And by the measure of my grief
    I leave thy greatness to be guess'd;

    What practice howsoe'er expert
       In fitting aptest words to things,
       Or voice the richest-toned that sings,
    Hath power to give thee as thou wert?

    I care not in these fading days
       To raise a cry that lasts not long,
       And round thee with the breeze of song
    To stir a little dust of praise.

    Thy leaf has perish'd in the green,
       And, while we breathe beneath the sun,
       The world which credits what is done
    Is cold to all that might have been.

    So here shall silence guard thy fame;
       But somewhere, out of human view,
       Whate'er thy hands are set to do
    Is wrought with tumult of acclaim.

    • Wethinks the speaker doth protest too much. Here, he's claiming that he's not really praising Arthur to the rooftops in his poem. Well, he could have fooled us…
    • Even though he actually does lavish it on a bit thickly with Arthur, Tennyson claims that there's no need to. This is because, wherever his friend is now, he's doing things that will end up being praised with the "tumult of acclaim."
  • Canto 76

    Lines 1413-1428

    Take wings of fancy, and ascend,
       And in a moment set thy face
       Where all the starry heavens of space
    Are sharpen'd to a needle's end;

    Take wings of foresight; lighten thro'
       The secular abyss to come,
       And lo, thy deepest lays are dumb
    Before the mouldering of a yew;

    And if the matin songs, that woke
       The darkness of our planet, last,
       Thine own shall wither in the vast,
    Ere half the lifetime of an oak.

    Ere these have clothed their branchy bowers
       With fifty Mays, thy songs are vain;
       And what are they when these remain
    The ruin'd shells of hollow towers?

    • Now Tennyson wants us to have imagination time. He's asking us to use our imaginations and rise up to where "all the starry heavens of space / Are sharpen'd to a needle's end." Nifty—but what does it mean?
    • Well, he seems to be imagining seeing all of space and time as a needle, drawn out and sharp. When you think of things in this grand scheme, nothing really matters.
    • Even the most significant songs ("deepest lays"), presumably written by the greatest poets, are silent compared to the lifetime of a yew tree.
    • They won't be remembered for even half the time that an oak tree lives. So what good is any of this? Maybe we'll get an answer in the next canto…
  • Canto 77

    Lines 1429-1444

    What hope is here for modern rhyme
       To him, who turns a musing eye
       On songs, and deeds, and lives, that lie
    Foreshorten'd in the tract of time?

    These mortal lullabies of pain
       May bind a book, may line a box,
       May serve to curl a maiden's locks;
    Or when a thousand moons shall wane

    A man upon a stall may find,
       And, passing, turn the page that tells
       A grief, then changed to something else,
    Sung by a long-forgotten mind.

    But what of that? My darken'd ways
       Shall ring with music all the same;
       To breathe my loss is more than fame,
    To utter love more sweet than praise.

    • And now our Tenny gets even more emo. If all of those really great poems and songs can't be remembered in the vastness of time, there's no hope at all for "modern rhyme," which he seems to consider less than the old greats.
    • Modern poems, like Tennyson's own "lullabies of pain" (the very elegy you are reading) are only good to bind books, line boxes, or to be used as a way to curl a girl's hair.
    • No matter—Tennyson's still going to keep on getting his poetry on. He's not worried about getting famous.
    • His poem helps him cope with his loss because it allows him to express his love for Arthur.
  • Canto 78

    Lines 1445-1464

    Again at Christmas did we weave
       The holly round the Christmas hearth;
       The silent snow possess'd the earth,
    And calmly fell our Christmas-eve:

    The yule-clog sparkled keen with frost,
       No wing of wind the region swept,
       But over all things brooding slept
    The quiet sense of something lost.

    As in the winters left behind,
       Again our ancient games had place,
       The mimic picture's breathing grace,
    And dance and song and hoodman-blind.

    Who show'd a token of distress?
       No single tear, no mark of pain:
       O sorrow, then can sorrow wane?
    O grief, can grief be changed to less?

    O last regret, regret can die!
       No—mixt with all this mystic frame,
       Her deep relations are the same,
    But with long use her tears are dry.

    • It's Christmas time again, so break out the tree, eggnog, and presents. This seems to be the second Christmas since Arthur's death. Again, though, time doesn't work very neatly in this poem.
    • Things appear to be going as usual. Tennyson's family and friends are celebrating with games and song, and aren't loud in their grief like they were during the previous Christmas. In fact, no one is really crying—um, yay?
    • The speaker wants us to understand, though, that while he's not literally crying his eyes out anymore, he's no less sad.
    • Ah, ok then—sniff.
  • Canto 79

    Lines 1465-1484

    "More than my brothers are to me,"—
       Let this not vex thee, noble heart!
       I know thee of what force thou art
    To hold the costliest love in fee.

    But thou and I are one in kind,
       As moulded like in Nature's mint;
       And hill and wood and field did print
    The same sweet forms in either mind.

    For us the same cold streamlet curl'd
       Thro' all his eddying coves, the same
       All winds that roam the twilight came
    In whispers of the beauteous world.

    At one dear knee we proffer'd vows,
       One lesson from one book we learn'd,
       Ere childhood's flaxen ringlet turn'd
    To black and brown on kindred brows.

    And so my wealth resembles thine,
       But he was rich where I was poor,
       And he supplied my want the more
    As his unlikeness fitted mine.

    • Take a look back at line 220, in case the quotation that kicks off the first verse here sounds familiar. The speaker previously said that Arthur meant more to him than his own brothers.
    • Tennyson is apparently a bit scared that his own real brother is going to read too much into that. He's trying to avert a Family Feud: Christmas Edition.
    • Tenny re-assures his bro that they, too, are totes alike—because they grew up in the same place and among all the same peeps.
    • Arthur, though, was figuratively "rich[er]" than the speaker.
    • He was apparently just enough unlike Tennyson that they fit together way better. Opposites attract, we guess.
  • Canto 80

    Lines 1485-1500

    If any vague desire should rise,
       That holy Death ere Arthur died
       Had moved me kindly from his side,
    And dropt the dust on tearless eyes;

    Then fancy shapes, as fancy can,
       The grief my loss in him had wrought,
       A grief as deep as life or thought,
    But stay'd in peace with God and man.

    I make a picture in the brain;
       I hear the sentence that he speaks;
       He bears the burthen of the weeks
    But turns his burthen into gain.

    His credit thus shall set me free;
       And, influence-rich to soothe and save,
       Unused example from the grave
    Reach out dead hands to comfort me.

    • Sometimes, apparently, Tennyson wishes he had died before Arthur.
    • He imagines that, if this had been the case, Arthur would have handled his grief a bit better. Arthur wouldn't have lost his faith, like Tennyson has. He would have "stay'd in peace with God and man."
    • The speaker continues to imagine what this scenario would look like. Arthur would bear his grief better, turning it to good.
    • This thought really comforts Tennyson. It's like Arthur's "dead hands" are "reach[ing]" out from the grave to make him feel better. Aw—when's the last time "dead hands" gave you a warm and fuzzy feeling?
  • Canto 81

    Lines 1501-1512

    Could I have said while he was here,
       "My love shall now no further range;
       There cannot come a mellower change,
    For now is love mature in ear"?

    Love, then, had hope of richer store:
       What end is here to my complaint?
       This haunting whisper makes me faint,
    "More years had made me love thee more.'

    But Death returns an answer sweet:
       "My sudden frost was sudden gain,
       And gave all ripeness to the grain,
    It might have drawn from after-heat."

    • Tennyson wonders whether, when Arthur was still alive, their friendship had reached its highest level.
    • This is the "mellower change" we see in the first stanza. He wonders if their love is "mature in ear." What a strange way to put this: an old ear—say what?
    • This isn't as weird as you imagine. Think not about an ear that you hear with, but an ear that you eat. He's talking about how an ear of corn ripens into fruit.
    • Way back then, there was hope that their friendship could grow even greater than it was.
    • The speaker soon consoles himself with the idea that, when Arthur died, this process of maturation happened all at once, kind of like those time-lapse movies where you can see a sprout growing into a mature plant in the span of about thirty seconds.
    • Death reassures him that Arthur's "sudden death" caused "all ripeness to the grain."
  • Canto 82

    Lines 1513-1528

    I wage not any feud with Death
       For changes wrought on form and face;
       No lower life that earth's embrace
    May breed with him, can fright my faith.

    Eternal process moving on,
       From state to state the spirit walks;
       And these are but the shatter'd stalks,
    Or ruin'd chrysalis of one.

    Nor blame I Death, because he bare
       The use of virtue out of earth:
       I know transplanted human worth
    Will bloom to profit, otherwhere.

    For this alone on Death I wreak
       The wrath that garners in my heart;
       He put our lives so far apart
    We cannot hear each other speak.

    • Tennyson doesn't have a beef with Death for the changes that dying causes in a body's "form and face." Sure, it's kind of gross, but the speaker isn't shaken in his faith because of this gory process.
    • It's an "eternal process" that just happens. One thing changes into another. Something new comes from the chrysalis of something else. It's like when a caterpillar changes to a beautiful butterfly.
    • He's not even mad at Death because Arthur could have accomplished greater things on earth; he trusts instead that he'll accomplish these things "otherwhere," which is a nice, mystical-sounding name for the afterlife.
    • The only thing he's really peeved with Death about is that now he and Arthur are so far apart that they cannot communicate at all.
    • Notice all the imagery here that relates to things changing: "changes," "eternal process," "chrysalis," and "transplant[ing]." Change seems to be comforting to Tennyson because it suggests that something continues instead of just stopping.
  • Canto 83

    Lines 1529-1544

    Dip down upon the northern shore,
       O sweet new-year delaying long;
       Thou doest expectant nature wrong;
    Delaying long, delay no more.

    What stays thee from the clouded noons,
       Thy sweetness from its proper place?
       Can trouble live with April days,
    Or sadness in the summer moons?

    Bring orchis, bring the foxglove spire,
       The little speedwell's darling blue,
       Deep tulips dash'd with fiery dew,
    Laburnums, dropping-wells of fire.

    O thou, new-year, delaying long,
       Delayest the sorrow in my blood,
       That longs to burst a frozen bud
    And flood a fresher throat with song.

    • And to go along with those images of renewal and rebirth in the previous canto, it's now the new year.
    • The speaker looks forward to the renewal of springtime (the reference to April tells us that), but it's taking too darn long.
    • Tennyson wants his voice to spring forth and burst its "frozen bud" (a metaphor for his sadness), just like the non-metaphorical flowers he's cataloging here.
  • Canto 84

    Lines 1545-1592

    When I contemplate all alone
       The life that had been thine below,
       And fix my thoughts on all the glow
    To which thy crescent would have grown;

    I see thee sitting crown'd with good,
       A central warmth diffusing bliss
       In glance and smile, and clasp and kiss,
    On all the branches of thy blood;

    Thy blood, my friend, and partly mine;
       For now the day was drawing on,
       When thou should'st link thy life with one
    Of mine own house, and boys of thine

    Had babbled "Uncle" on my knee;
       But that remorseless iron hour
       Made cypress of her orange flower,
    Despair of Hope, and earth of thee.

    I seem to meet their least desire,
       To clap their cheeks, to call them mine.
       I see their unborn faces shine
    Beside the never-lighted fire.

    I see myself an honor'd guest,
       Thy partner in the flowery walk
       Of letters, genial table-talk,
    Or deep dispute, and graceful jest;

    While now thy prosperous labor fills
       The lips of men with honest praise,
       And sun by sun the happy days
    Descend below the golden hills

    With promise of a morn as fair,
       And all the train of bounteous hours
       Conduct by paths of growing powers,
    To reverence and the silver hair;

    Till slowly worn her earthly robe,
       Her lavish mission richly wrought,
       Leaving great legacies of thought,
    Thy spirit should fail from off the globe;

    What time mine own might also flee,
       As link'd with thine in love and fate,
       And, hovering o'er the dolorous strait
    To the other shore, involved in thee,

    Arrive at last the blessed goal,
       And He that died in Holy Land
       Would reach us out the shining hand,
    And take us as a single soul.

    What reed was that on which I leant?
       Ah, backward fancy, wherefore wake
       The old bitterness again, and break
    The low beginnings of content.

    • Here, Tennyson is engaging in some more flights of imagination. This time, he's thinking about how life would have been if Arthur had not died. He would have done much good in the world, and would have had a big family that would have spread his goodness.
    • In particular, Arthur would have married one of Tennyson's sisters, and so the speaker would have had a chance to bounce a little nephew on his knee.
    • They would have chatted around a table and argued in a friendly way about intellectual things.
    • Once Tenny and Arthur grew old, still the best of friends, Jesus would have taken them to Heaven at the exact same time, as "a single soul."
    • That image is more husband-and-wife-like than what Tennyson describes earlier in the canto when he imagines Arthur marrying his sister.
    • And check out some of the other marriage imagery: Tennyson is Arthur's "partner" and the two are "link'd with [...] love and fate."
    • It's almost like the sister is just a kind of surrogate for the greater love these two have for each other. Again, we wonder if there was more than just friendship—possibly not acknowledged or even on a subconscious level?
    • Whatever's going on, thinking about what might have been makes Tennyson lapse into bitterness again.
  • Canto 85

    Lines 1593-1712

    This truth came borne with bier and pall
       I felt it, when I sorrow'd most,
       'Tis better to have loved and lost,
    Than never to have loved at all—

    O true in word, and tried in deed,
       Demanding, so to bring relief
       To this which is our common grief,
    What kind of life is that I lead;

    And whether trust in things above
       Be dimm'd of sorrow, or sustain'd;
       And whether love for him have drain'd
    My capabilities of love;

    Your words have virtue such as draws
       A faithful answer from the breast,
       Thro' light reproaches, half exprest,
    And loyal unto kindly laws.

    My blood an even tenor kept,
       Till on mine ear this message falls,
       That in Vienna's fatal walls
    God's finger touch'd him, and he slept.

    The great Intelligences fair
       That range above our mortal state,
       In circle round the blessed gate,
    Received and gave him welcome there;

    And led him thro' the blissful climes,
       And show'd him in the fountain fresh
       All knowledge that the sons of flesh
    Shall gather in the cycled times.

    But I remain'd, whose hopes were dim,
       Whose life, whose thoughts were little worth,
       To wander on a darken'd earth,
    Where all things round me breathed of him.

    O friendship, equal-poised control,
       O heart, with kindliest motion warm,
       O sacred essence, other form,
    O solemn ghost, O crowned soul!

    Yet none could better know than I,
       How much of act at human hands
       The sense of human will demands
    By which we dare to live or die.

    Whatever way my days decline,
       I felt and feel, tho' left alone,
       His being working in mine own,
    The footsteps of his life in mine;

    A life that all the Muses deck'd
       With gifts of grace, that might express
       All-comprehensive tenderness,
    All-subtilising intellect:

    And so my passion hath not swerved
       To works of weakness, but I find
       An image comforting the mind,
    And in my grief a strength reserved.

    Likewise the imaginative woe,
       That loved to handle spiritual strife
       Diffused the shock thro' all my life,
    But in the present broke the blow.

    My pulses therefore beat again
       For other friends that once I met;
       Nor can it suit me to forget
    The mighty hopes that make us men.

    I woo your love: I count it crime
       To mourn for any overmuch;
       I, the divided half of such
    A friendship as had master'd Time;

    Which masters Time indeed, and is
       Eternal, separate from fears:
       The all-assuming months and years
    Can take no part away from this:

    But Summer on the steaming floods,
       And Spring that swells the narrow brooks,
       And Autumn, with a noise of rooks,
    That gather in the waning woods,

    And every pulse of wind and wave
       Recalls, in change of light or gloom,
       My old affection of the tomb,
    And my prime passion in the grave:

    My old affection of the tomb,
       A part of stillness, yearns to speak:
       "Arise, and get thee forth and seek
    A friendship for the years to come.

    "I watch thee from the quiet shore;
       Thy spirit up to mine can reach;
       But in dear words of human speech
    We two communicate no more."

    And I, "Can clouds of nature stain
       The starry clearness of the free?
       How is it? Canst thou feel for me
    Some painless sympathy with pain?"

    And lightly does the whisper fall:
       "'Tis hard for thee to fathom this;
       I triumph in conclusive bliss,
    And that serene result of all."

    So hold I commerce with the dead;
       Or so methinks the dead would say;
       Or so shall grief with symbols play
    And pining life be fancy-fed.

    Now looking to some settled end,
       That these things pass, and I shall prove
       A meeting somewhere, love with love,
    I crave your pardon, O my friend;

    If not so fresh, with love as true,
       I, clasping brother-hands, aver
       I could not, if I would, transfer
    The whole I felt for him to you.

    For which be they that hold apart
       The promise of the golden hours?
       First love, first friendship, equal powers,
    That marry with the virgin heart.

    Still mine, that cannot but deplore,
       That beats within a lonely place,
       That yet remembers his embrace,
    But at his footstep leaps no more,

    My heart, tho' widow'd, may not rest
       Quite in the love of what is gone,
       But seeks to beat in time with one
    That warms another living breast.

    Ah, take the imperfect gift I bring,
       Knowing the primrose yet is dear,
       The primrose of the later year,
    As not unlike to that of Spring.

    • Remember that famous line way back at 567? Well, Tennyson is saying here that it's super-duper hard to make that work. It's a snap to spout this off, but when it's put into practice, it's difficult.
    • The speaker imagines his dear friend up with the "great Intelligences" in the afterlife, and they're basically showing him the ropes and helping him become something even greater.
    • This doesn't make Tennyson feel any better, though, because he's been left behind.
    • And to make matters worse, everything reminds him of Arthur.
    • The despairing series of apostrophes highlights just how sad Tennyson is.
    • But he's starting to regain his strength by imagining that Arthur's spirit is watching over him and making him a better person, even though he's in Heaven and Tennyson still walks the earth.
    • He's even thinking that it may be time to start new friendships.
    • He feels "widow'd" (remember that recurring pattern—the two are almost like a married couple), but his soul is wanting to find someone else who might end up being as close to Tennyson as Arthur once was.
    • The closing metaphor we get compares Arthur to a primrose (which blooms in winter) and the potential new friend Tennyson might find to a flower blooming in spring.
    • So, again, rebirth and renewal is significant. And if you think this feels like a turning point in the poem…you're totally correct.
    • The length sort of gives it away, indicating the poet's dwelling more on some of the thoughts there and working things out.
  • Canto 86

    Lines 1713-1728

    Sweet after showers, ambrosial air,
       That rollest from the gorgeous gloom
       Of evening over brake and bloom
    And meadow, slowly breathing bare

    The round of space, and rapt below
       Thro' all the dewy-tassell'd wood,
       And shadowing down the horned flood
    In ripples, fan my brows and blow

    The fever from my cheek, and sigh
       The full new life that feeds thy breath
       Throughout my frame, till Doubt and Death,
    Ill brethren, let the fancy fly

    From belt to belt of crimson seas
       On leagues of odour streaming far,
       To where in yonder orient star
    A hundred spirits whisper "Peace."

    • Tennyson seems to be frolicking through nature here, in the "showers" and "ambrosial air" among the "gloom[s]."
    • Check it out: using an adjective here as a noun is a particular rhetorical device called anthimeria. It basically makes the sentence more colorful and lively.
    • These showers are healing for our speaker; they get rid of his fever and fuel his imagination in the third stanza.
    • After that last canto, where he was struggling to work things out, he's now feeling the cleansing power of spring and experiencing the peace that it has brought.
  • Canto 87

    Lines 1729-1768

    I past beside the reverend walls
       In which of old I wore the gown;
       I roved at random thro' the town,
    And saw the tumult of the halls;

    And heard once more in college fanes
       The storm their high-built organs make,
       And thunder-music, rolling, shake
    The prophet blazon'd on the panes;

    And caught once more the distant shout,
       The measured pulse of racing oars
       Among the willows; paced the shores
    And many a bridge, and all about

    The same gray flats again, and felt
       The same, but not the same; and last
       Up that long walk of limes I past
    To see the rooms in which he dwelt.

    Another name was on the door:
       I linger'd; all within was noise
       Of songs, and clapping hands, and boys
    That crash'd the glass and beat the floor;

    Where once we held debate, a band
       Of youthful friends, on mind and art,
       And labour, and the changing mart,
    And all the framework of the land;

    When one would aim an arrow fair,
       But send it slackly from the string;
       And one would pierce an outer ring,
    And one an inner, here and there;

    And last the master-bowman, he,
       Would cleave the mark. A willing ear
       We lent him. Who, but hung to hear
    The rapt oration flowing free

    From point to point, with power and grace
       And music in the bounds of law,
       To those conclusions when we saw
    The God within him light his face,

    And seem to lift the form, and glow
       In azure orbits heavenly-wise;
       And over those ethereal eyes
    The bar of Michael Angelo?

    • The speaker walks through his old college. This is poetically conveyed with the idea of wearing a graduation gown, or scholar's attire. This becomes explicit in the second stanza, when he straight-up tells us he's walking through his old college haunts. This would be Trinity College, Cambridge, where he went to school with Arthur.
    • Things are different, though. There's a different name on the door to the dorm room that used to be Arthur's.
    • Their group of friends would listen to Arthur and see how the spirit of God would cause him to light up. His appearance would be as beautiful as something painted by Michelangelo.
  • Canto 88

    Lines 1769-1780

    Wild bird, whose warble, liquid sweet,
       Rings Eden thro' the budded quicks,
       O tell me where the senses mix,
    O tell me where the passions meet,

    Whence radiate: fierce extremes employ
       Thy spirits in the darkening leaf,
       And in the midmost heart of grief
    Thy passion clasps a secret joy:

    And I—my harp would prelude woe—
       I cannot all command the strings;
       The glory of the sum of things
    Will flash along the chords and go.

    • Now he's talking to a bird, like a sad Victorian Dr. Doolittle.
    • He pleads with the bird to teach him how to sing about his feelings, because he's having a hard time sorting out the extremes of sadness and joy he's feeling.
    • Tennyson can't make his figurative instrument play these chords correctly to capture his complex feelings.
  • Canto 89

    Lines 1781-1832

    Witch-elms that counterchange the floor
       Of this flat lawn with dusk and bright;
       And thou, with all thy breadth and height
    Of foliage, towering sycamore;

    How often, hither wandering down,
       My Arthur found your shadows fair,
       And shook to all the liberal air
    The dust and din and steam of town:

    He brought an eye for all he saw;
       He mixt in all our simple sports;
       They pleased him, fresh from brawling courts
    And dusty purlieus of the law.

    O joy to him in this retreat,
       Immantled in ambrosial dark,
       To drink the cooler air, and mark
    The landscape winking thro' the heat:

    O sound to rout the brood of cares,
       The sweep of scythe in morning dew,
       The gust that round the garden flew,
    And tumbled half the mellowing pears!

    O bliss, when all in circle drawn
       About him, heart and ear were fed
       To hear him as he lay and read
    The Tuscan poets on the lawn:

    Or in the all-golden afternoon
       A guest, or happy sister, sung,
      Or here she brought the harp and flung
    A ballad to the brightening moon:

    Nor less it pleased in livelier moods,
       Beyond the bounding hill to stray,
       And break the livelong summer day
    With banquet in the distant woods;

    Whereat we glanced from theme to theme,
       Discuss'd the books to love or hate,
       Or touch'd the changes of the state,
    Or threaded some Socratic dream;

    But if I praised the busy town,
       He loved to rail against it still,
       For "ground in yonder social mill
    We rub each other's angles down,

    "And merge," he said, "in form and gloss
       The picturesque of man and man."
       We talk'd: the stream beneath us ran,
    The wine-flask lying couch'd in moss,

    Or cool'd within the glooming wave;
       And last, returning from afar,
       Before the crimson-circled star
    Had fall'n into her father's grave,

    And brushing ankle-deep in flowers,
       We heard behind the woodbine veil
       The milk that bubbled in the pail,
    And buzzings of the honied hours.

    • Oh my, "witch-elms" seem a bit ominous, don't they? But wait—Arthur liked to sit underneath them, so it's all good.
    • This is another example of Tennyson presenting nature as a positive force, in contrast to its hostility.
    • Wherever this scene is, the two of them used to hang out there and talk about law, art ("the Tuscan poets"), and philosophy (the "Socratic dream").
    • The imagery here gives us an idealized pastoral scene, with the trees, the streams, and the busy buzzing bees in the last stanza.
    • Arthur apparently once told Tennyson that the two of them "rub each other's angles down," which is a pleasant image of how they spent so much time getting to know each other that they grew closer and closer.
  • Canto 90

    Lines 1833-1856

    He tasted love with half his mind,
       Nor ever drank the inviolate spring
       Where nighest heaven, who first could fling
    This bitter seed among mankind;

    That could the dead, whose dying eyes
       Were closed with wail, resume their life,
       They would but find in child and wife
    An iron welcome when they rise:

    'Twas well, indeed, when warm with wine,
       To pledge them with a kindly tear,
       To talk them o'er, to wish them here,
    To count their memories half divine;

    But if they came who past away,
       Behold their brides in other hands;
       The hard heir strides about their lands,
    And will not yield them for a day.

    Yea, tho' their sons were none of these,
       Not less the yet-loved sire would make
       Confusion worse than death, and shake
    The pillars of domestic peace.

    Ah dear, but come thou back to me:
       Whatever change the years have wrought,
       I find not yet one lonely thought
    That cries against my wish for thee.

    • Tennyson muses about what it would be like if the dead came back. It's not a pretty picture, folks—even leaving aside how they'd look all Walking Dead-y.
    • They'd find their wives with new husbands and in general an "iron welcome." Iron is a hard metal, so getting a welcome of this type would be like getting whapped upside the head with something hard—in other words, a rude awakening.
    • Basically, the living grieve over the dead, but don't really want them back. Yep, Tennyson's getting his cynicism on here.
    • He, however, is different. Even though it would be crazy (it would cause "confusion worse than death"), he wants his friend back, no matter how the years have changed him.
  • Canto 91

    Lines 1857-1872

    When rosy plumelets tuft the larch,
       And rarely pipes the mounted thrush;
       Or underneath the barren bush
    Flits by the sea-blue bird of March;

    Come, wear the form by which I know
       Thy spirit in time among thy peers;
       The hope of unaccomplish'd years
    Be large and lucid round thy brow.

    When summer's hourly-mellowing change
       May breathe, with many roses sweet,
       Upon the thousand waves of wheat,
    That ripple round the lonely grange;

    Come: not in watches of the night,
       But where the sunbeam broodeth warm,
       Come, beauteous in thine after form,
    And like a finer light in light.

    • "Rosy plumelets"? Things "tuft[ing] the larch"? A thrush "pip[ing]"? What??
    • Okay, so we're back in spring. These are all ultra-poetic ways of saying birds are out flying around and flowers are blooming, so it's that time again.
    • The speaker beckons to Arthur to return to him during springtime in the same form he had when he lived on earth.
    • He wants him to come back in springtime or summer, but not at night.
  • Canto 92

    Lines 1873-1888

    If any vision should reveal
       Thy likeness, I might count it vain
       As but the canker of the brain;
    Yea, tho' it spake and made appeal

    To chances where our lots were cast
       Together in the days behind,
       I might but say, I hear a wind
    Of memory murmuring the past.

    Yea, tho' it spake and bared to view
       A fact within the coming year;
       And tho' the months, revolving near,
    Should prove the phantom-warning true,

    They might not seem thy prophecies,
       But spiritual presentiments,
       And such refraction of events
    As often rises ere they rise.

    • If Tennyson does happen to see Arthur, he might think he's crazy, like he had a "canker of the brain" (so, something seriously wrong with his noggin—"We'd better call Dr. House stat" type of wrong).
    • He seems a bit disturbed to think that he might really see his friend one day in the flesh again.
    • Or maybe he's afraid of seeing a vision. It's not totally clear.
  • Canto 93

    Lines 1889-1904

    I shall not see thee. Dare I say
       No spirit ever brake the band
       That stays him from the native land
    Where first he walk'd when claspt in clay?

    No visual shade of some one lost,
       But he, the Spirit himself, may come
       Where all the nerve of sense is numb;
    Spirit to Spirit, Ghost to Ghost.

    O, therefore from thy sightless range
       With gods in unconjectured bliss,
       O, from the distance of the abyss
    Of tenfold-complicated change,

    Descend, and touch, and enter; hear
       The wish too strong for words to name;
       That in this blindness of the frame
    My Ghost may feel that thine is near.

    • Alas, Tennyson will never see Arthur again, because the "band," or barrier that separates the living from the dead, has never been broken.
    • He'll not be able to actually see his friend again, although his spirit could return and reach out to the speaker's spirit: "Spirit to Spirit, Ghost to Ghost." So, the only reunion they will enjoy will be a spiritual one, and not a for-reals one.
    • He longs for even this kind of reunion, and pleads with Arthur's spirit to come down and enter his own, so that his spirit can feel Arthur's near.
  • Canto 94

    Lines 1905-1920

    How pure at heart and sound in head,
       With what divine affections bold
       Should be the man whose thought would hold
    An hour's communion with the dead.

    In vain shalt thou, or any, call
       The spirits from their golden day,
       Except, like them, thou too canst say,
    My spirit is at peace with all.

    They haunt the silence of the breast,
       Imaginations calm and fair,
       The memory like a cloudless air,
    The conscience as a sea at rest:

    But when the heart is full of din,
       And doubt beside the portal waits,
       They can but listen at the gates,
    And hear the household jar within.

    • Too bad for Tennyson (and any other person who ever hoped this): the dead only come down and hold "communion" with those who are pure in heart and sound in their mental faculties.
    • When you're all worked up, and your heart is fill of noise ("din"), and you're filled with doubts, the spirits will only hang out outside the gates and listen to the noise within the house—bummer.
  • Canto 95

    Lines 1921-1984

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Tennyson's hanging out with some people on a summer night. Maybe we're back in his old college days and he's once again with Arthur and their friends?
    • They're singing songs that echo out over the hills and they can see the cattle white against the darkness.
    • One by one, these other peeps leave Tennyson alone. Okay, so we're assuming this is after Arthur's death then, because we can't imagine Arthur would leave his side.
    • And bingo—it's after Arthur has passed, because once everyone's gone and Tennyson's dwelling quietly on the past, Arthur ("the dead man") touches him from the past.
    • We're not meant to read this literally. Instead, it's the type of spiritual communion he longed for in the previous canto.
    • Arthur's "living soul [...] flashed" on Tennyson's. Again we have that significant image of something happening all at once and reaching its highest state of being all at once (like the ear of corn previously).
    • This experience is way beyond what Tennyson is able to express, so he has difficulty finding the right words throughout the canto (check out "Symbols, Imagery, Wordplay" for the lowdown).
    • This is a significant moment where the speaker changes his outlook. The breezes whisper "The dawn, the dawn"—another symbol of renewal and rebirth. It's literally a new day for Tenny (yay!).
  • Canto 96

    Lines 1985-2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Who is the "you" here in the first line? We're not exactly sure, but it's obvious Tennyson's giving us an imaginary convo that he's having with someone.
    • And this someone's telling the speaker that doubt (lack of faith) comes straight from the devil.
    • Tennyson argues that this is not the case.
    • Then, we get a sort of paradox from the poet: there's more faith in someone who has honest doubt than in half the belief systems that are out there. And you can be "pure in deeds" but still have doubts, which appears to be worth something to Tennyson.
    • Paradoxically enough, the speaker seems to suggest here that struggling with doubt actually creates a faith that is stronger.
  • Canto 97

    Lines 2009-2044

    My love has talk'd with rocks and trees;
       He finds on misty mountain-ground
       His own vast shadow glory-crown'd;
    He sees himself in all he sees.

    Two partners of a married life—
       I look'd on these and thought of thee
       In vastness and in mystery,
    And of my spirit as of a wife.

    These two—they dwelt with eye on eye,
       Their hearts of old have beat in tune,
       Their meetings made December June
    Their every parting was to die.

    Their love has never past away;
       The days she never can forget
       Are earnest that he loves her yet,
    Whate'er the faithless people say.

    Her life is lone, he sits apart,
       He loves her yet, she will not weep,
       Tho' rapt in matters dark and deep
    He seems to slight her simple heart.

    He thrids the labyrinth of the mind,
       He reads the secret of the star,
       He seems so near and yet so far,
    He looks so cold: she thinks him kind.

    She keeps the gift of years before,
       A wither'd violet is her bliss:
       She knows not what his greatness is,
    For that, for all, she loves him more.

    For him she plays, to him she sings
       Of early faith and plighted vows;
       She knows but matters of the house,
    And he, he knows a thousand things.

    Her faith is fixt and cannot move,
       She darkly feels him great and wise,
       She dwells on him with faithful eyes,
    "I cannot understand: I love."

    • The love Tennyson has for Arthur is reflected in everything he sees around him in the world.
    • And we mean everything: rocks, trees, misty mountains—the works.
    • And we're getting another extended metaphor, so get ready.
    • Tennyson images a married couple who felt like dying whenever they had to be separated.
    • The husband is a totally smart guy—kind of an egghead professor type. He's always thinking about "matters dark and deep," while the wife is much more simple (and probably shouldn't worry her pretty little head about intellectual matters, arewerite?).
    • This couple is separated by intellectual capacity, but united in love. It doesn't matter to her that she doesn't understand—she has love, which is enough.
    • Remember all of those class-related metaphors from earlier cantos? Tennyson put Arthur in the place of someone from a much higher class to show how he is in a higher spiritual realm than Tenny at this point.
    • Well, this canto is explaining how these divisions don't matter at all. Their love for each other makes them transcend these divisions. Even though the woman here doesn't understand her lover's intellectual words, she loves him and that's all that matters. How…sweet?
  • Canto 98

    Lines 2045-2076

    You leave us: you will see the Rhine,
       And those fair hills I sail'd below,
       When I was there with him; and go
    By summer belts of wheat and vine

    To where he breathed his latest breath,
       That City. All her splendour seems
       No livelier than the wisp that gleams
    On Lethe in the eyes of Death.

    Let her great Danube rolling fair
       Enwind her isles, unmark'd of me:
       I have not seen, I will not see
    Vienna; rather dream that there,

    A treble darkness, Evil haunts
       The birth, the bridal; friend from friend
       Is oftener parted, fathers bend
    Above more graves, a thousand wants

    Gnarr at the heels of men, and prey
       By each cold hearth, and sadness flings
       Her shadow on the blaze of kings:
    And yet myself have heard him say,

    That not in any mother town
       With statelier progress to and fro
       The double tides of chariots flow
    By park and suburb under brown

    Of lustier leaves; nor more content,
       He told me, lives in any crowd,
       When all is gay with lamps, and loud
    With sport and song, in booth and tent,

    Imperial halls, or open plain;
       And wheels the circled dance, and breaks
       The rocket molten into flakes
    Of crimson or in emerald rain.

    • Who is the "you" here? Good question—it's someone off to take a trip to Europe, apparently.
    • "That City"—that sounds ominous, no? This is where Arthur died, so Tennyson is not wanting to visit Vienna anytime soon, if ever. Darkness haunts that city, even though his friend previously told him about what a great place it was.
    • What's "Gnarr," you ask? It's an old-timey word that means "to snarl or growl." This is an onomatopoeia, meaning it's a word that resembles its meaning. This helps to emphasize the ominous elements of "That City" in Tennyson's mind.
    • So, the darkness that comes out of The City makes a growling sound at the heels of men, as if it's chasing them. This personification turns the volume way, way up on Tennyson's feelings for Vienna. He pretty much hates it, because that's where Arthur was last alive—and where he met his death.
  • Canto 99

    Lines 2077-2096

    Risest thou thus, dim dawn, again,
       So loud with voices of the birds,
       So thick with lowings of the herds,
    Day, when I lost the flower of men;

    Who tremblest thro' thy darkling red
       On yon swoll'n brook that bubbles fast
       By meadows breathing of the past,
    And woodlands holy to the dead;

    Who murmurest in the foliaged eaves
       A song that slights the coming care,
       And Autumn laying here and there
    A fiery finger on the leaves;

    Who wakenest with thy balmy breath
       To myriads on the genial earth,
       Memories of bridal, or of birth,
    And unto myriads more, of death.

    O, wheresoever those may be,
       Betwixt the slumber of the poles,
       To-day they count as kindred souls;
    They know me not, but mourn with me.

    • It's the anniversary of Arthur's death again. (We're at year 3, we think.) That first stanza is all about this particular day dawning, which was when Tennyson "lost the flower of men."
    • Things are looking better to old Tenny these days, though. He's showing interest in the sunrise and the dawn.
    • Just think about that for a few seconds. It symbolizes new beginnings and new starts (the start of a new day—both literally and metaphorically).
    • These images of nature are much more pleasant than many we have seen so far. His grief seems to be leaving him little by little, and things aren't looking so bleak.
  • Canto 100

    Lines 2097-2116

    I climb the hill: from end to end
       Of all the landscape underneath,
       I find no place that does not breathe
    Some gracious memory of my friend;

    No gray old grange, or lonely fold,
       Or low morass and whispering reed,
      Or simple stile from mead to mead,
    Or sheepwalk up the windy wold;

    Nor hoary knoll of ash and hew
       That hears the latest linnet trill,
       Nor quarry trench'd along the hill
    And haunted by the wrangling daw;

    Nor runlet tinkling from the rock;
       Nor pastoral rivulet that swerves
       To left and right thro' meadowy curves,
    That feed the mothers of the flock;

    But each has pleased a kindred eye,
       And each reflects a kindlier day;
       And, leaving these, to pass away,
    I think once more he seems to die.

    • As the speaker walks through the land, the landscape reflects memories of when he walked in the same areas with his friend. Tennyson sees Arthur reflected in nature all around him.
    • And some of the imagery here at first glance seems like it has the potential to be depressing. The "gray old grange"? The "lonely fold"? The idea of wind and the "hoary knoll of ash"? (By the by: "hoary" means grey or white, because of age.)
    • While the idea that things are old and wasting away might not initially seem like a very happy image, Tenny takes comfort in these sights because he once looked at them with Arthur, the "kindred eye" in the last verse.
    • This upswing in mood doesn't last very long, though. When he leaves this landscape, it seems like he's experiencing the death of his friend all over again.
  • Canto 101

    Lines 2117-2140

    Unwatch'd, the garden bough shall sway,
       The tender blossom flutter down,
       Unloved, that beech will gather brown,
    This maple burn itself away;

    Unloved, the sun-flower, shining fair,
       Ray round with flames her disk of seed,
       And many a rose-carnation feed
    With summer spice the humming air;

    Unloved, by many a sandy bar,
       The brook shall babble down the plain,
       At noon or when the lesser wain
    Is twisting round the polar star;

    Uncared for, gird the windy grove,
       And flood the haunts of hern and crake;
       Or into silver arrows break
    The sailing moon in creek and cove;

    Till from the garden and the wild
       A fresh association blow,
       And year by year the landscape grow
    Familiar to the stranger's child;

    As year by year the labourer tills
       His wonted glebe, or lops the glades;
       And year by year our memory fades
    From all the circle of the hills.

    • These natural elements will continue on, even though Arthur isn't there to see them.
    • Even though the garden has no one to watch over it, it will still grow, and the trees will still turn colors with the changing seasons.
    • Despite no one being around to love them, the flowers will still be just as beautiful
    • Pull this idea through the next several stanzas, because what's happening here is that the speaker realizes that even after he leaves this landscape, it will continue to live on. And it will be just as gorgeous and vibrant as it was when Arthur was still alive
    • Eventually, someone else will take over, and all of these sights will be familiar to that person's kid. Wait, what? Who is this "stranger's child" that the speaker brings up in the second-to-last stanza?
    • We don't know at this point. Let's read on, Shmoopers…
  • Canto 102

    Lines 2141-2164

    We leave the well-beloved place
       Where first we gazed upon the sky;
       The roofs, that heard our earliest cry,
    Will shelter one of stranger race.

    We go, but ere we go from home,
       As down the garden-walks I move,
       Two spirits of a diverse love
    Contend for loving masterdom.

    One whispers, "Here thy boyhood sung
       Long since its matin song, and heard
       The low love-language of the bird
    In native hazels tassel-hung."

    The other answers, "Yea, but here
       Thy feet have stray'd in after hours
       With thy lost friend among the bowers,
    And this hath made them trebly dear."

    These two have striven half the day,
       And each prefers his separate claim,
       Poor rivals in a losing game,
    That will not yield each other way.

    I turn to go: my feet are set
       To leave the pleasant fields and farms;
       They mix in one another's arms
    To one pure image of regret.

    • Ah-ha—now this is making a bit more sense. The landscape isn't just some random field, farmland, grove, or beach somewhere. It appears to be the childhood home of Tennyson.
    • He refers to roofs that "heard our earliest cry" and the morning song that his "boyhood" once sang.
    • He must have grown up here, then. That's why we've been getting a sense of attachment over the last several cantos.
    • Plus, he got to share this with Arthur, so the landscape means something on two levels.
    • He's wearing two hats when looking at this land. One is the hat of his childhood self, which has good memories. The other hat is that of his young adulthood, when he hung out with Arthur here and shared these sights with his friend.
    • He imagines these two selves sort of duking it out for half the day, arguing over who has the better claim to this landscape. Which one do you think will win?
    • In the end, as he's leaving, these two versions of himself mingle into one that reflects only regret.
  • Canto 103

    Lines 2165-2220

    On that last night before we went
       From out the doors where I was bred,
       I dream'd a vision of the dead,
    Which left my after-morn content.

    Methought I dwelt within a hall,
       And maidens with me: distant hills
       From hidden summits fed with rills
    A river sliding by the wall.

    The hall with harp and carol rang.
       They sang of what is wise and good
       And graceful. In the centre stood
    A statue veil'd, to which they sang;

    And which, tho' veil'd, was known to me,
       The shape of him I loved, and love
       For ever: then flew in a dove
    And brought a summons from the sea:

    And when they learnt that I must go
       They wept and wail'd, but led the way
       To where a little shallop lay
    At anchor in the flood below;

    And on by many a level mead,
       And shadowing bluff that made the banks,
       We glided winding under ranks
    Of iris, and the golden reed;

    And still as vaster grew the shore
      And roll'd the floods in grander space,
      The maidens gather'd strength and grace
    And presence, lordlier than before;

    And I myself, who sat apart
       And watch'd them, wax'd in every limb;
       I felt the thews of Anakim,
    The pulses of a Titan's heart;

    As one would sing the death of war,
       And one would chant the history
       Of that great race, which is to be,
    And one the shaping of a star;

    Until the forward-creeping tides
       Began to foam, and we to draw
       From deep to deep, to where we saw
    A great ship lift her shining sides.

    The man we loved was there on deck,
       But thrice as large as man he bent
       To greet us. Up the side I went,
    And fell in silence on his neck;

    Whereat those maidens with one mind
       Bewail'd their lot; I did them wrong:
      "We served thee here," they said, "so long,
    And wilt thou leave us now behind?"

    So rapt I was, they could not win
       An answer from my lips, but he
       Replying, "Enter likewise ye
    And go with us:" they enter'd in.

    And while the wind began to sweep
       A music out of sheet and shroud,
       We steer'd her toward a crimson cloud
    That landlike slept along the deep.

    • The next day, Tennyson gets a dream that makes him a bit happy. We have another turning point, folks (ch-ch-ch-ch-changes).
    • His vision is about a bunch of maidens who are singing around a veiled statue. It's clear the statue is of Arthur, since Tennyson recognizes its shape.
    • Then, a dove flies in and tells everyone that they're about to go for a boat ride.
    • So, they all get on a boat and sail away.
    • Okay—it's starting to become clear that these maidens are the Muses, since Tennyson brings up songs, history, and astronomy, some of the traditional territory of the Muses. Plus, later in the canto they tell Arthur that they "served [him] here" (on earth). He, too, was a poet.
    • At the end of their journey, they see a great ship and on its deck is Arthur. The Muses get on the boat and leave with Arthur.
    • Weird dream, huh? It's not just a dream, though. It's also a kind of allegory for the boat ride that's really life, and that ends for everyone in death.
  • Canto 104

    Lines 2221-2232

    The time draws near the birth of Christ;
       The moon is hid, the night is still;
       A single church below the hill
    Is pealing, folded in the mist.

    A single peal of bells below,
       That wakens at this hour of rest
       A single murmur in the breast,
    That these are not the bells I know.

    Like strangers' voices here they sound,
       In lands where not a memory strays,
       Nor landmark breathes of other days,
    But all is new unhallow'd ground.

    • It's Christmas again. We're up to the third year after our speaker's bestie has passed away.
    • There's only one pealing of bells, where before there were four. It's clear the speaker is in a new place.
    • Yep—in the last stanza he notes how these bells sound like strangers, and there are no memories anywhere in this new land. It's all new and unholy ground.
    • We get the sense that it's "unhallow'd" because Arthur's presence has never blessed this landscape like the one he's been describing to us over the last several cantos.
    • Do you think this will end up being good or bad? Will it help his grief, or make him dwell on it more? There's only one way to find out…
  • Canto 105

    Lines 2223-2260

    To-night ungather'd let us leave
       This laurel, let this holly stand:
       We live within the stranger's land,
    And strangely falls our Christmas-eve.

    Our father's dust is left alone
       And silent under other snows:
       There in due time the woodbine blows,
    The violet comes, but we are gone.

    No more shall wayward grief abuse
       The genial hour with mask and mime;
       For change of place, like growth of time,
    Has broke the bond of dying use.

    Let cares that petty shadows cast,
       By which our lives are chiefly proved,
       A little spare the night I loved,
    And hold it solemn to the past.

    But let no footstep beat the floor,
       Nor bowl of wassail mantle warm;
      For who would keep an ancient form
    Thro' which the spirit breathes no more?

    Be neither song, nor game, nor feast;
       Nor harp be touch'd, nor flute be blown;
       No dance, no motion, save alone
    What lightens in the lucid east

    Of rising worlds by yonder wood.
       Long sleeps the summer in the seed;
       Run out your measured arcs, and lead
    The closing cycle rich in good.

    • He's experiencing a foreign Christmas in a foreign land.
    • Not surprisingly, Tennyson is feeling a sense of dislocation. So he wants to not even bother gathering up the laurel and holly. Everything is "strange" to him because his surroundings are so different. We're not supposed to read this as being in a different country, but instead just a different area of England.
    • Because of all this, Tennyson doesn't feel much like celebrating. He wants something more solemn to mark the occasion, because he feels even more disconnected from his home and from Arthur.
    • Remember all that singing and game-playing that went on in the last Christmas Tennyson described? Well, forget about it now. He doesn't feel like playing any of those reindeer games this time (sniff).
  • Canto 106

    Lines 2261-2292

    Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
       The flying cloud, the frosty light:
       The year is dying in the night;
    Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

    Ring out the old, ring in the new,
       Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
       The year is going, let him go;
    Ring out the false, ring in the true.

    Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
       For those that here we see no more;
       Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
    Ring in redress to all mankind.

    Ring out a slowly dying cause,
       And ancient forms of party strife;
       Ring in the nobler modes of life,
    With sweeter manners, purer laws.

    Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
       The faithless coldness of the times;
       Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
    But ring the fuller minstrel in.

    Ring out false pride in place and blood,
       The civic slander and the spite;
       Ring in the love of truth and right,
    Ring in the common love of good.

    Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
       Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
       Ring out the thousand wars of old,
    Ring in the thousand years of peace.

    Ring in the valiant man and free,
       The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
       Ring out the darkness of the land,
    Ring in the Christ that is to be.

    • And we're back with a string of imperatives (and anaphora). This time, Tennyson's commanding the church bells to ring for various things.
    • He wants the bells to ring in the New Year and ring out Tennyson's previous "mournful rhymes."
    • This is a really optimistic canto that seems to go along with the speaker's new outlook on life. Much of his doubt seems to have been cleared away and he's looking forward to the "thousand years of peace" and "the Christ that is to be."
    • If you haven't already guessed, the reference to Christ "that is to be" is super-optimistic compared to the doubt that he ruminated on for an entire string of cantos earlier in the poem.
    • Christ here symbolizes not just hope, but also the larger sense of purpose that Tennyson lacked earlier.
    • He seems to now be leaning more toward accepting that there is a larger plan to life.
  • Canto 107

    Lines 2293-2316

    It is the day when he was born,
       A bitter day that early sank
       Behind a purple-frosty bank
    Of vapour, leaving night forlorn.

    The time admits not flowers or leaves
       To deck the banquet. Fiercely flies
       The blast of North and East, and ice
    Makes daggers at the sharpen'd eaves,

    And bristles all the brakes and thorns
       To yon hard crescent, as she hangs
       Above the wood which grides and clangs
    Its leafless ribs and iron horns

    Together, in the drifts that pass
       To darken on the rolling brine
       That breaks the coast. But fetch the wine,
    Arrange the board and brim the glass;

    Bring in great logs and let them lie,
       To make a solid core of heat;
       Be cheerful-minded, talk and treat
    Of all things ev'n as he were by;

    We keep the day. With festal cheer,
       With books and music, surely we
       Will drink to him, whate'er he be,
    And sing the songs he loved to hear.

    • So, you might have already gotten the message that Christmas celebrations are particularly hard on the speaker, since it was a time of joy that he once shared with his dear friend.
    • As you can well imagine, it's probably not that great on Arthur's birthday, either. In fact, it's probably much worse.
    • Tennyson appears to be talking about Arthur's birthday here. Understandably, this is bringing a bit more sadness back to him.
    • This day is "bitter" and linked with frost and "vapour" (probably fog, which is gloomy and doesn't really make for a happy landscape).
    • In fact, it's all really quite threatening. Check out how the icicles are like "daggers."
    • But wait...what's this? He's calling for wine and for the table to be set.
    • It turns out that the speaker and others are celebrating the day with cheer and with the things that Arthur would have appreciated: books, music, and songs that he liked.
    • It's almost as if Arthur were nearby: "ev'n as he were by" (2312).
  • Canto 108

    Lines 2317-2332

    I will not shut me from my kind,
       And, lest I stiffen into stone,
       I will not eat my heart alone,
    Nor feed with sighs a passing wind:

    What profit lies in barren faith,
       And vacant yearning, tho' with might
       To scale the heaven's highest height,
    Or dive below the wells of Death?

    What find I in the highest place,
       But mine own phantom chanting hymns?
       And on the depths of death there swims
    The reflex of a human face.

    I'll rather take what fruit may be
       Of sorrow under human skies:
      'Tis held that sorrow makes us wise,
    Whatever wisdom sleep with thee.

    • Well, now. It would seem that our Tenny is well on the road to recovery. He doesn't want to keep himself locked away from other people ("my kind")—he wants to be sociable.
    • If he doesn't engage with his fellow man, he apparently runs the risk of "stiffen[ing] into stone."
    • This makes sense. The more he separates himself from others, the more solitary and set in his ways he'll become—like the crotchety old man who yells at kids to get off his lawn.
    • The image of the stone nicely creates this picture of what the speaker could turn into.
    • Instead, he recognizes that there's nothing to be gained from "barren faith" and "vacant yearning." So, wallowing in his doubt and yearning for Arthur to be alive again won't do anybody one bit of good.
    • "Barren" and "vacant" work with the previous imagery of the stone to emphasize that his life could permanently be empty if he continues to wallow in his grief and not let anyone in.
    • In the end, sorrow leads to wisdom. It seems to be part of that "eternal process" Tennyson mentioned before. He's continuing to put things within a more optimistic perspective.
  • Canto 109

    Lines 2333-2356

    Heart-affluence in discursive talk
       From household fountains never dry;
       The critic clearness of an eye,
    That saw thro' all the Muses' walk;

    Seraphic intellect and force
       To seize and throw the doubts of man;
       Impassion'd logic, which outran
    The hearer in its fiery course;

    High nature amorous of the good,
       But touch'd with no ascetic gloom;
       And passion pure in snowy bloom
    Thro' all the years of April blood;

    A love of freedom rarely felt,
       Of freedom in her regal seat
       Of England; not the schoolboy heat,
    The blind hysterics of the Celt;

    And manhood fused with female grace
       In such a sort, the child would twine
       A trustful hand, unask'd, in thine,
    And find his comfort in thy face;

    All these have been, and thee mine eyes
       Have look'd on: if they look'd in vain,
       My shame is greater who remain,
    Nor let thy wisdom make me wise.

    • Okay, we can see your eyes start to glaze over here. You're checking out on us as soon as you read the word "discursive."
    • Never fear, though. That's just fancy-pants talk for "relating to discourse." He's just telling us that Arthur liked to chat up his friend about highfalutin intellectual topics.
    • The speaker here puts the topics Arthur once liked to talk about in terms of "the Muses' walk." This means all of those subjects that the mythical Muses inspire were fair game for his super-smart friend. It's really a nice image: walking with the Muses so that he's inspired to talk of these various subjects.
    • His intellect was like that of a "seraph," or an angel. We're assuming that's pretty high up there.
    • Remember: Tennyson earlier compared Arthur to a really bookworm-y husband whose wife has no idea what the guy's talking about half the time. This "Muses' walk" really amplifies that earlier idea. His friend was one smart cookie and wasn't afraid to show it.
    • Arthur loved the common good of man, but didn't pursue it as an "ascetic" might, which means he didn't necessarily live like a monk and deprive himself of the good things in life. (That's basically what "ascetic" means. You live away from the world and its temptations.)
    • Also, he was a big lover of freedom, which for Tennyson reflects the regal nature of England without the "blind hysterics" of the Celt. Wow...cultural stereotype much, Tenny? This basically means that he thinks the Celts (the Scottish and Welsh) are loud and over-emotional.
    • Tennyson also suggests that Arthur blended together both male and female qualities. This goes along with all those metaphors we've seen throughout the poem that cast Arthur or Tennyson in the place of a female in a conventional love relationship.
    • And finally, Arthur was wise.
    • We're starting to get a more complete picture of the guy, but we have to question it a bit. Is it Tennyson's nostalgia that is making his friend out to be better than he actually was? Is he over-idealizing him here, or was this guy just this good?
  • Canto 110

    Lines 2357-2376

    Thy converse drew us with delight,
       The men of rathe and riper years:
       The feeble soul, a haunt of fears,
    Forgot his weakness in thy sight.

    On thee the loyal-hearted hung,
       The proud was half disarm'd of pride,
       Nor cared the serpent at thy side
    To flicker with his double tongue.

    The stern were mild when thou wert by,
       The flippant put himself to school
       And heard thee, and the brazen fool
    Was soften'd, and he knew not why;

    While I, thy nearest, sat apart,
       And felt thy triumph was as mine;
       And loved them more, that they were thine,
    The graceful tact, the Christian art;

    Nor mine the sweetness or the skill,
       But mine the love that will not tire,
       And, born of love, the vague desire
    That spurs an imitative will.

    • Continuing on with the effusive praise of Arthur, we see that he was able to inspire strength in others, and kind of tamed those who might be too proud or who were tricky (those with a "double tongue").
    • In fact, Arthur's good nature pretty much made all those who came into contact with him a better person. He turned the "stern" to "mild" and "soften'd" up the "brazen fool."
    • His good qualities, then, were able to bring out the best in others.
    • From afar, Tennyson shares in this, and admires Arthur's tact and Christian behavior. He, himself, didn't have Arthur's skills, but his example and the love he had for his friend made Tennyson strive to be a better man. This is what that whole "imitative will" (desire to be like someone or something else) thing is about in the last line.
  • Canto 111

    Lines 2377-2400

    The churl in spirit, up or down
       Along the scale of ranks, thro' all,
       To him who grasps a golden ball,
    By blood a king, at heart a clown;

    The churl in spirit, howe'er he veil
       His want in forms for fashion's sake,
       Will let his coltish nature break
    At seasons thro' the gilded pale:

    For who can always act? but he,
       To whom a thousand memories call,
       Not being less but more than all
    The gentleness he seem'd to be,

    Best seem'd the thing he was, and join'd
       Each office of the social hour
       To noble manners, as the flower
    And native growth of noble mind;

    Nor ever narrowness or spite,
       Or villain fancy fleeting by,
       Drew in the expression of an eye,
    Where God and Nature met in light;

    And thus he bore without abuse
       The grand old name of gentleman,
       Defamed by every charlatan,
    And soil'd with all ignoble use.

    • A "churl" is a rascally, low-born fellow. Yes—it's a very class-loaded term, but here Tennyson probably just means someone who behaves badly because they are a jerk, not because they haven't been taught decent manners ("churl in spirit").
    • So even though a man might be born of higher blood (in the first stanza), it's implied that his behavior makes him a churl. Even if he's trying hard to come off like a gentlemen, his true nature will eventually shine through: "For who can always act?"
    • Arthur, though, was a true gentleman. "Gentle" is also a class-related term; it comes from "gentil," which means "high born." (This is related to our modern "gentleman"—a man who uses fancy manners.)
    • Within Tennyson's friend, both God (probably meaning good behavior) and Nature (the blood aspect of a person) meet "in light."
    • The term "gentleman" has been abused by being used to describe a whole lot of people who really aren't gentlemen at all.
  • Canto 112

    Lines 2401-2416

    High wisdom holds my wisdom less,
       That I, who gaze with temperate eyes
       On glorious insufficiencies,
    Set light by narrower perfectness.

    But thou, that fillest all the room
       Of all my love, art reason why
       I seem to cast a careless eye
    On souls, the lesser lords of doom.

    For what wert thou? some novel power
       Sprang up for ever at a touch,
       And hope could never hope too much,
    In watching thee from hour to hour,

    Large elements in order brought,
       And tracts of calm from tempest made,
       And world-wide fluctuation sway'd
    In vassal tides that follow'd thought.

    • Tennyson much more admires the "narrower perfectness" of Arthur than the "glorious insuffiencies" of the false gentlemen whom he described in the previous canto.
    • He loves Arthur so much that he is sure Arthur would have accomplished great things, even though in his short life he had not yet had the opportunity to do so.
    • The speaker gives him some mad props when he says that Arthur was "some novel power / Sprang up for ever at a touch" (2409-2410).
    • No, this doesn't mean "novel" as in a longish fictional book, but rather "novel" as in "new."
    • So, Arthur was kind of like a whole new type of person, whose abilities Tennyson couldn't overestimate. This becomes apparent when Tennyson says: "hope could never hope too much, / In watching thee from hour to hour."
  • Canto 113

    Lines 2417-2436

    'Tis held that sorrow makes us wise;
       Yet how much wisdom sleeps with thee
       Which not alone had guided me,
    But served the seasons that may rise;

    For can I doubt, who knew thee keen
       In intellect, with force and skill
       To strive, to fashion, to fulfil—
    I doubt not what thou wouldst have been:

    A life in civic action warm,
       A soul on highest mission sent,
       A potent voice of Parliament,
    A pillar steadfast in the storm,

    Should licensed boldness gather force,
      Becoming, when the time has birth,
      A lever to uplift the earth
    And roll it in another course,

    With thousand shocks that come and go,
       With agonies, with energies,
       With overthrowings, and with cries
    And undulations to and fro.

    • The speaker continues his musings from the previous canto: he has no doubt that Arthur would have been a great man.
    • He would have probably held some kind of high office. The third stanza affirms this by showing how he would have taken "civic action" and been a "potent voice of Parliament."
    • In other words, Arthur was destined to be a leader of men, and one who would rally the troops when necessary.
    • Tennyson doesn't stop there, though. He suggests that Arthur is a "soul on highest mission sent" and would become like a "lever to uplift the earth and roll it in another course." Wow—that's pretty impressive stuff.
    • This is some major optimism here on the part of the speaker, but sadly it makes the loss of Arthur all the more poignant—considering what greatness he might have achieved if he had not died so young.
  • Canto 114

    Lines 2437-2464

    Who loves not Knowledge? Who shall rail
       Against her beauty? May she mix
       With men and prosper! Who shall fix
    Her pillars? Let her work prevail.

    But on her forehead sits a fire:
       She sets her forward countenance
       And leaps into the future chance,
    Submitting all things to desire.

    Half-grown as yet, a child, and vain—
       She cannot fight the fear of death.
       What is she, cut from love and faith,
    But some wild Pallas from the brain

    Of Demons? fiery-hot to burst
       All barriers in her onward race
       For power. Let her know her place;
    She is the second, not the first.

    A higher hand must make her mild,
       If all be not in vain; and guide
       Her footsteps, moving side by side
    With wisdom, like the younger child:

    For she is earthly of the mind,
      But Wisdom heavenly of the soul.
      O, friend, who camest to thy goal
    So early, leaving me behind,

    I would the great world grew like thee,
       Who grewest not alone in power
       And knowledge, but by year and hour
    In reverence and in charity.

    • Tennyson here seems to struggle with the difference between Knowledge and Wisdom.
    • He characterizes Knowledge in terms of fiery, frenetic energy. She has a fire on her forehead, and "leaps into the future chance." She comes to be like Athena, springing completely born from the brain of demons (yikes).
    • Wisdom tames her somewhat, and we get the calming image of personified Wisdom taking Knowledge by the hand like parent leading a little child.
    • Knowledge, Tennyson continues, is an earthly virtue, while Wisdom is something that comes from heaven and the soul.
    • The speaker seems to suggest that Arthur was able to balance these, and that he lived in "reverence and in charity."
    • So, he was a good guy—spiritual and generous to his fellow man, plus smart and wise.
  • Canto 115

    Lines 2465-2484

    Now fades the last long streak of snow,
       Now burgeons every maze of quick
       About the flowering squares, and thick
    By ashen roots the violets blow.

    Now rings the woodland loud and long,
       The distance takes a lovelier hue,
       And drown'd in yonder living blue
    The lark becomes a sightless song.

    Now dance the lights on lawn and lea,
       The flocks are whiter down the vale,
       And milkier every milky sail
    On winding stream or distant sea;

    Where now the seamew pipes, or dives
       In yonder greening gleam, and fly
       The happy birds, that change their sky
    To build and brood; that live their lives

    From land to land; and in my breast
       Spring wakens too; and my regret
       Becomes an April violet,
    And buds and blossoms like the rest.

    • It's springtime once again. We know that because the snow is going away and everything is flowering again. Nature is erupting with new growth and the birds are singing. Check all the details out in the first two stanzas here.
    • What's more interesting, though, is how Tennyson's inner emotions reflect what's happening outside.
    • The birds are a particularly hopeful image here. They are piping and diving around, "happy."
    • This is also another example of the "pathetic fallacy" we alerted you to earlier (check out Canto 2). Here, because Tennyson is in a better mood, nature reflects that.
    • His regret is disappearing in favor of "buds and blossoms." So he's starting to get happy again.
    • He's still making progress and hasn't yet really backslid in his new-found faith.
  • Canto 116

    Lines 2485-2500

    Is it, then, regret for buried time
       That keenlier in sweet April wakes,
       And meets the year, and gives and takes
    The colours of the crescent prime?

    Not all: the songs, the stirring air,
       The life re-orient out of dust
       Cry thro' the sense to hearten trust
    In that which made the world so fair.

    Not all regret: the face will shine
       Upon me, while I muse alone;
       And that dear voice, I once have known,
    Still speak to me of me and mine:

    Yet less of sorrow lives in me
       For days of happy commune dead;
       Less yearning for the friendship fled,
    Than some strong bond which is to be.

    • The regret that is awakening in Tennyson's breast might be the regret that he has wasted some time in his grief.
    • But it's not all regret. He recognizes that Arthur's face will still beam down upon him, and his voice is still speaking to him—figuratively speaking.
    • He's getting ready for a new bond and is feeling less pain from "the friendship fled."
    • Yay—Tennyson has really rounded a corner and seems to have worked through the worst of his grief. He's not only okay with being sociable, he's even preparing himself to have another bond that might be as strong as the one he shared with Arthur.
  • Canto 117

    Lines 2501-2512

    O days and hours, your work is this
       To hold me from my proper place,
       A little while from his embrace,
    For fuller gain of after bliss:

    That out of distance might ensue
       Desire of nearness doubly sweet;
       And unto meeting when we meet,
    Delight a hundredfold accrue,

    For every grain of sand that runs,
       And every span of shade that steals,
       And every kiss of toothed wheels,
    And all the courses of the suns.

    • This new friendship will make Tennyson's time on earth a bit happier, so he can experience the "fuller gain" of happiness in Arthur's company when they reunite in the afterlife.
    • You've heard that old saying, "Distance makes the heart grow fonder"? That's exactly what Tennyson is saying in the second stanza. He's hoping that once he and Arthur meet in Heaven, their happiness will be as great as every grain of sand, every patch of shade, every gear that locks into every other gear, and all the distance that the sun travels.
    • And believe us—that's a lot of happiness.
  • Canto 118

    Lines 2513-2540

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • And Tennyson is still on an upswing here. The dead have "nobler ends": they're enjoying a fuller life that we can't imagine from where we are.
    • Scientists say that the earth was formed out of extreme heat and was subjected to random storms. After that, man finally developed. This new lifeform thrived, adapted to his environment ("from clime to clime"), and became the apex of life on earth.
    • Tennyson uses all of this in a figurative sense. Mankind might be imagined as being shaped by these geological forces and tempered into something higher—something that moves "upward" and that "work[s] out the beast," leaving behind lesser animals to just die.
    • In other words, there is an afterlife for humans. They have a soul, where the other animals do not.
  • Canto 119

    Lines 2541-2552

    Doors, where my heart was used to beat
       So quickly, not as one that weeps
       I come once more; the city sleeps;
    I smell the meadow in the street;

    I hear a chirp of birds; I see
       Betwixt the black fronts long-withdrawn
       A light-blue lane of early dawn,
    And think of early days and thee,

    And bless thee, for thy lips are bland,
       And bright the friendship of thine eye;
       And in my thoughts with scarce a sigh
    I take the pressure of thine hand.

    • The doors in the first stanza are probably the doors to the house where Arthur once lived.
    • It's interesting that now the speaker is coming to this place "not as one that weeps." The big take-away here is that he's way less sad than the last time he darkened this guy's door.
    • It's clear he's once again visiting the places where his friend once was, but this time with a new and improved outlook.
    • Even though Arthur is now gone, the speaker feels "the pressure of [his] hand."
    • Of course, this plays into the pattern of imagery you've probably noticed by now: of things entwining and hands clasping (check out "Symbols, Imagery, Wordplay" for other examples).
    • Here, it's the imagined pressure of Arthur's hand in his, but it seems to be no less important to Tennyson than if it were the real thing.
    • He's definitely on the mental mend.
  • Canto 120

    Lines 2553-2564

    I trust I have not wasted breath:
       I think we are not wholly brain,
       Magnetic mockeries; not in vain,
    Like Paul with beasts, I fought with Death;

    Not only cunning casts in clay:
       Let Science prove we are, and then
       What matters Science unto men,
    At least to me? I would not stay.

    Let him, the wiser man who springs
       Hereafter, up from childhood shape
       His action like the greater ape,
    But I was born to other things.

    • Tennyson's really throwing down the gauntlet to science here. He argues that humans aren't just brains or smart robots made of clay.
    • "Cunning casts in clay," to be exact—the alliteration here with the repetition of the hard C-sound gives this sentence a sort of bitter edge to it. He's kind of hostile to science here, guys.
    • "Go ahead, Science, try to prove it," is what Tennyson's basically saying.
    • He's now comfortable in the belief that he "was born to other things." This means he has lost his previous doubts and believes there is a higher purpose for mankind after all.
  • Canto 121

    Lines 2565-2584

    Sad Hesper o'er the buried sun
       And ready, thou, to die with him,
       Thou watchest all things ever dim
    And dimmer, and a glory done:

    The team is loosen'd from the wain,
       The boat is drawn upon the shore;
       Thou listenest to the closing door,
    And life is darken'd in the brain.

    Bright Phosphor, fresher for the night,
       By thee the world's great work is heard
       Beginning, and the wakeful bird;
    Behind thee comes the greater light:

    The market boat is on the stream,
      And voices hail it from the brink;
      Thou hear'st the village hammer clink,
    And see'st the moving of the team.

    Sweet Hesper-Phosphor, double name
       For what is one, the first, the last,
       Thou, like my present and my past,
    Thy place is changed; thou art the same.

    • "Hesper" is the evening star (actually the planet Venus), which Tennyson addresses here.
    • Then he talks to "Phosphor," the morning star. Strangely enough, that's also the planet Venus.
    • So, these two are the same thing seen at different times, blending into "Hesper-Phosphor" in the final stanza here.
    • This double star symbolizes the speaker's past and present, and the grief that he once felt along with the happiness that he's starting to feel.
    • They're all the same. They come from the same source (meaning Arthur).
    • He concludes in the final line here that, even though Arthur is in a different place ("Thy place is changed"), he is still the same. His essence still remains, and this is something Tennyson can continue to love and have hope that he will eventually be reunited with.
  • Canto 122

    Lines 2585-2604

    Oh, wast thou with me, dearest, then,
       While I rose up against my doom,
       And yearn'd to burst the folded gloom,
    To bare the eternal Heavens again,

    To feel once more, in placid awe,
       The strong imagination roll
       A sphere of stars about my soul,
    In all her motion one with law;

    If thou wert with me, and the grave
       Divide us not, be with me now,
       And enter in at breast and brow,
    Till all my blood, a fuller wave,

    Be quicken'd with a livelier breath,
       And like an inconsiderate boy,
       As in the former flash of joy,
    I slip the thoughts of life and death;

    And all the breeze of Fancy blows,
       And every dew-drop paints a bow,
       The wizard lightnings deeply glow,
    And every thought breaks out a rose.

    • The speaker is becoming ever more optimistic. He wonders if Arthur's spirit was with him when he started to have this change of heart.
    • He may be talking about that moment in Canto 95 when his spirit joined with Arthur's in that mystical moment of spiritual communion. The "flash" in the second-to-last stanza strongly points us in that direction, doesn't it?
    • He's asking Arthur to be with him once again and to be livelier, since now Tennyson is casting off his mournful thoughts.
    • The rose in the final line confirms that his grief is going away and that he's interested in life once again.
  • Canto 123

    Lines 2605-2616

    There rolls the deep where grew the tree.
       O earth, what changes hast thou seen!
       There where the long street roars, hath been
    The stillness of the central sea.

    The hills are shadows, and they flow
       From form to form, and nothing stands;
       They melt like mist, the solid lands,
    Like clouds they shape themselves and go.

    But in my spirit will I dwell,
       And dream my dream, and hold it true;
       For tho' my lips may breathe adieu,
    I cannot think the thing farewell.

    • The images of nature here seem to suggest impermanence and flux where previously (in images of trees living a really, really long time) they suggested permanence.
    • This becomes pretty clear when he mentions the shadows "flow[ing] / From form to form" and the fact that "nothing stands." Mist and things melting also emphasize this image of flux and constant change in nature.
    • Tennyson is comparing this to the eternal nature of the spirit. While the earth is constantly in flux and nothing remains stable (even though we're talking about geological periods of time), the soul outlives even the earth.
    • Tennyson will always have a life in his spirit.
    • That's where real eternity comes in. So not even the old yew tree—which lives for thousands of years and tears apart skeletons and gravestones—can rival this kind of eternity.
  • Canto 124

    Lines 2617-2640

    That which we dare invoke to bless;
       Our dearest faith; our ghastliest doubt;
       He, They, One, All; within, without;
    The Power in darkness whom we guess;

    I found Him not in world or sun,
       Or eagle's wing, or insect's eye;
       Nor thro' the questions men may try,
    The petty cobwebs we have spun:

    If e'er when faith had fall'n asleep,
       I heard a voice "believe no more"
       And heard an ever-breaking shore
    That tumbled in the Godless deep;

    A warmth within the breast would melt
       The freezing reason's colder part,
       And like a man in wrath the heart
    Stood up and answer'd "I have felt."

    No, like a child in doubt and fear:
       But that blind clamour made me wise;
       Then was I as a child that cries,
    But, crying, knows his father near;

    And what I am beheld again
       What is, and no man understands;
       And out of darkness came the hands
    That reach thro' nature, moulding men.

    • The speaker claims he does not find God ("He, They, One, All") in natural things: "world," "sun," "insect's eye," or "petty cobwebs" (nor in things human beings do, which last as long and are as fragile as cobwebs in the grand scheme of things).
    • Instead, Tennyson finds God in emotions: "I have felt." He compares this to a child crying and through that cry knows that his father is close by.
    • Wait a minute. This is the second time the speaker has used the analogy of a baby or child crying. Go back and check out Canto 54 if you don't remember.
    • Here, though, the crying doesn't seem so hopeless. There's a father close by to comfort the child.
  • Canto 125

    Lines 2641-2656

    Whatever I have said or sung,
       Some bitter notes my harp would give,
       Yea, tho' there often seem'd to live
    A contradiction on the tongue,

    Yet Hope had never lost her youth;
       She did but look through dimmer eyes;
       Or Love but play'd with gracious lies,
    Because he felt so fix'd in truth:

    And if the song were full of care,
       He breathed the spirit of the song;
       And if the words were sweet and strong
    He set his royal signet there;

    Abiding with me till I sail
       To seek thee on the mystic deeps,
       And this electric force, that keeps
    A thousand pulses dancing, fail.

    • If Tennyson has previously said bitter things in this poem, he never really lost hope.
    • His song might have been "full of care," but it was just because Arthur was breathing his spirit into Tennyson's poetry—kind of like the Muses that the speaker returns to over and over again.
    • Arthur will be with him until he reunites with his friend in "the mystic deeps," which is poetic speak for the afterlife.
    • And how is he going to get there? He's going to "sail," of course. This parallels the bark (boat) that brought Arthur's body from Vienna to England.
  • Canto 126

    Lines 2657-2668

    Love is and was my Lord and King,
       And in his presence I attend
       To hear the tidings of my friend,
    Which every hour his couriers bring.

    Love is and was my King and Lord,
       And will be, tho' as yet I keep
       Within his court on earth, and sleep
    Encompass'd by his faithful guard,

    And hear at times a sentinel
       Who moves about from place to place,
       And whispers to the worlds of space,
    In the deep night, that all is well.

    • Love (now the emotion personified, and not his bestie) rules over Tennyson. Through Love, he will hear his friend.
    • And remember who else is associated with Love in the poem? That's right—it's the Big Guy himself: Jesus. ("Lord" is the big tip-off here.)
    • Here, Love works on two levels. It refers to both Arthur as well as the eternal love of Jesus and Christianity.
    • Tennyson is reassured by love that everything is going to be all right.
    • He's also reassured by his faith (Love = Jesus) that it will all end well, and with a bigger plan.
  • Canto 127

    Lines 2669-2688

    And all is well, tho' faith and form
       Be sunder'd in the night of fear;
       Well roars the storm to those that hear
    A deeper voice across the storm,

    Proclaiming social truth shall spread,
       And justice, ev'n tho' thrice again
       The red fool-fury of the Seine
    Should pile her barricades with dead.

    But ill for him that wears a crown,
       And him, the lazar, in his rags:
       They tremble, the sustaining crags;
    The spires of ice are toppled down,

    And molten up, and roar in flood;
       The fortress crashes from on high,
       The brute earth lightens to the sky,
    And the great Æon sinks in blood,

    And compass'd by the fires of Hell;
       While thou, dear spirit, happy star,
       O'erlook'st the tumult from afar,
    And smilest, knowing all is well.

    • Everything is going well, even though his faith and body often part ways when he's afraid in the night.
    • But an even louder voice than fear reassures him that truth and justice will prevail, no matter how many dead bodies pile up (this is probably a reference to the French Revolution).
    • Justice will come to both the high and the low. This is symbolized by "him who wears a crown" and "the lazar, in his rags."
    • Even though these horrible things happen (and a "lazar" is a leper—so, yeah, not good), Arthur looks down.
    • He's the "dear spirit" in the final stanza here who smiles, knowing everything is going to be okay. This is because of the larger plan that Tennyson is regaining more and more faith in as time goes by.
  • Canto 128

    Lines 2689-2712

    The love that rose on stronger wings,
       Unpalsied when he met with Death,
       Is comrade of the lesser faith
    That sees the course of human things.

    No doubt vast eddies in the flood
       Of onward time shall yet be made,
       And throned races may degrade;
    Yet, O ye mysteries of good,

    Wild Hours that fly with Hope and Fear,
       If all your office had to do
       With old results that look like new;
    If this were all your mission here,

    To draw, to sheathe a useless sword,
       To fool the crowd with glorious lies,
       To cleave a creed in sects and cries,
    To change the bearing of a word,

    To shift an arbitrary power,
       To cramp the student at his desk,
       To make old bareness picturesque
    And tuft with grass a feudal tower;

    Why then my scorn might well descend
      On you and yours. I see in part
      That all, as in some piece of art,
    Is toil cöoperant to an end.

    • The love Tennyson felt for Arthur was not diminished (it remained "unpalsied," which means "unshaken") when his friend died.
    • This love is also like the "lesser faith," though, which means earthly, human things that will eventually pass away.
    • The next four stanzas develop this idea and emphasize earthly actions as being futile and useless.
    • What makes them worth anything is that they work together ("toil cöoperant") to a greater end, like a piece of art.
    • This conveys the idea of a spiritual evolution of man. What good is the whole of history if man just stays the same?
    • There has to be something higher—a greater purpose.
    • There seems to be a hint here that Tennyson might be reconciling his belief in a larger spiritual evolution with his (maybe) belief in physical evolution (as recently presented through Darwin's theories).
    • Evolution and the idea of an uncaring nature has plagued the speaker throughout the poem. Here, the tide seems to turn and he's on more solid footing.
  • Canto 129

    Lines 2713-2724

    Dear friend, far off, my lost desire,
       So far, so near in woe and weal;
       O loved the most, when most I feel
    There is a lower and a higher;

    Known and unknown; human, divine;
       Sweet human hand and lips and eye;
       Dear heavenly friend that canst not die,
    Mine, mine, for ever, ever mine;

    Strange friend, past, present, and to be;
       Loved deeplier, darklier understood;
       Behold, I dream a dream of good,
    And mingle all the world with thee.

    • Directly addressing Arthur, Tennyson calls him "my lost desire." You guessed it. This continues the ambiguous way the poet has addressed his friend throughout the poem. Friends, or more? Is it maybe just that poets don't have a way to neatly explain such a deep friendship between two men, so they fall back on tried-and-true romantic love tropes?
    • At any rate, he develops the idea of Arthur being a melding of various things: known and unknown; human and divine; and someone existing in the past, present, and future. It's a sort of cosmic representation of everything Arthur represents—he's the whole world to Tennyson.
    • And Tennyson sees the entire world as Arthur. He "mingle[s] all the world" with him.
    • Through his grief for his friend, he's learning some larger truths (and we mean Truths with a capital T) about the world.
  • Canto 130

    Lines 2725-2740

    Thy voice is on the rolling air;
       I hear thee where the waters run;
       Thou standest in the rising sun,
    And in the setting thou art fair.

    What art thou then? I cannot guess;
       But tho' I seem in star and flower
       To feel thee some diffusive power,
    I do not therefore love thee less:

    My love involves the love before;
       My love is vaster passion now;
       Tho' mix'd with God and Nature thou,
    I seem to love thee more and more.

    Far off thou art, but ever nigh;
       I have thee still, and I rejoice;
       I prosper, circled with thy voice;
    I shall not lose thee tho' I die.

    • The speaker feels Arthur in every aspect of the world. Because of this, he questions the nature of his friend. Even though Arthur's being seems to be spread out among all of the elements of the natural world (this "diffusive power"), Tennyson doesn't lose any of the love he has for him.
    • Arthur is now a melding of God and Nature (where previously Tennyson argued that these two were "at strife") and, because of this, Tennyson loves him even more than he did before.
  • Canto 131

    Lines 2741-2752

    O living will that shalt endure
       When all that seems shall suffer shock,
       Rise in the spiritual rock,
    Flow thro' our deeds and make them pure,

    That we may lift from out of dust
       A voice as unto him that hears,
       A cry above the conquer'd years
    To one that with us works, and trust,

    With faith that comes of self-control,
       The truths that never can be proved
       Until we close with all we loved,
    And all we flow from, soul in soul.

    • Tennyson begs the soul (the immortal spirit) to help mankind rise above his deeds and to make them pure, so that Jesus can hear their cries.
    • Faith engenders self-control and allows people to believe in things that remain unproven.
    • In the end, the individual's earthly life will come to a close, and all of the souls will meet each other in the afterlife.
  • Epilogue

    Lines 2753-2896

    O true and tried, so well and long,
       Demand not thou a marriage lay;
       In that it is thy marriage day
    Is music more than any song.

    Nor have I felt so much of bliss
       Since first he told me that he loved
       A daughter of our house; nor proved
    Since that dark day a day like this;

    Tho' I since then have number'd o'er
       Some thrice three years: they went and came,
       Remade the blood and changed the frame,
    And yet is love not less, but more;

    No longer caring to embalm
       In dying songs a dead regret,
       But like a statue solid-set,
    And moulded in colossal calm.

    Regret is dead, but love is more
       Than in the summers that are flown,
       For I myself with these have grown
    To something greater than before;

    Which makes appear the songs I made
       As echoes out of weaker times,
       As half but idle brawling rhymes,
    The sport of random sun and shade.

    But where is she, the bridal flower,
      That must be made a wife ere noon?
      She enters, glowing like the moon
    Of Eden on its bridal bower:

    On me she bends her blissful eyes
       And then on thee; they meet thy look
       And brighten like the star that shook
    Betwixt the palms of paradise.

    O when her life was yet in bud,
      He too foretold the perfect rose.
      For thee she grew, for thee she grows
    For ever, and as fair as good.

    And thou art worthy; full of power;
       As gentle; liberal-minded, great,
       Consistent; wearing all that weight
    Of learning lightly like a flower.

    But now set out: the noon is near,
       And I must give away the bride;
       She fears not, or with thee beside
    And me behind her, will not fear.

    For I that danced her on my knee,
       That watch'd her on her nurse's arm,
       That shielded all her life from harm
    At last must part with her to thee;

    Now waiting to be made a wife,
       Her feet, my darling, on the dead
       Their pensive tablets round her head,
    And the most living words of life

    Breathed in her ear. The ring is on,
       The "wilt thou" answer'd, and again
       The "wilt thou" ask'd, till out of twain
    Her sweet "I will" has made you one.

    Now sign your names, which shall be read,
       Mute symbols of a joyful morn,
       By village eyes as yet unborn;
    The names are sign'd, and overhead

    Begins the clash and clang that tells
       The joy to every wandering breeze;
       The blind wall rocks, and on the trees
    The dead leaf trembles to the bells.

    O happy hour, and happier hours
       Await them. Many a merry face
       Salutes them—maidens of the place,
    That pelt us in the porch with flowers.

    O happy hour, behold the bride
       With him to whom her hand I gave.
       They leave the porch, they pass the grave
    That has to-day its sunny side.

    To-day the grave is bright for me,
       For them the light of life increased,
       Who stay to share the morning feast,
    Who rest to-night beside the sea.

    Let all my genial spirits advance
       To meet and greet a whiter sun;
       My drooping memory will not shun
    The foaming grape of eastern France.

    It circles round, and fancy plays,
       And hearts are warm'd and faces bloom,
       As drinking health to bride and groom
    We wish them store of happy days.

    Nor count me all to blame if I
       Conjecture of a stiller guest,
       Perchance, perchance, among the rest,
    And, tho' in silence, wishing joy.

    But they must go, the time draws on,
       And those white-favour'd horses wait;
       They rise, but linger; it is late;
    Farewell, we kiss, and they are gone.

    A shade falls on us like the dark
       From little cloudlets on the grass,
       But sweeps away as out we pass
    To range the woods, to roam the park,

    Discussing how their courtship grew,
       And talk of others that are wed,
       And how she look'd, and what he said,
    And back we come at fall of dew.

    Again the feast, the speech, the glee,
       The shade of passing thought, the wealth
       Of words and wit, the double health,
    The crowning cup, the three-times-three,

    And last the dance;—till I retire:
       Dumb is that tower which spake so loud,
       And high in heaven the streaming cloud,
    And on the downs a rising fire:

    And rise, O moon, from yonder down,
       Till over down and over dale
       All night the shining vapour sail
    And pass the silent-lighted town,

    The white-faced halls, the glancing rills,
       And catch at every mountain head,
       And o'er the friths that branch and spread
    Their sleeping silver thro' the hills;

    And touch with shade the bridal doors,
       With tender gloom the roof, the wall;
       And breaking let the splendour fall
    To spangle all the happy shores

    By which they rest, and ocean sounds,
       And, star and system rolling past,
      A soul shall draw from out the vast
    And strike his being into bounds,

    And, moved thro' life of lower phase,
       Result in man, be born and think,
       And act and love, a closer link
    Betwixt us and the crowning race

    Of those that, eye to eye, shall look
       On knowledge; under whose command
       Is Earth and Earth's, and in their hand
    Is Nature like an open book;

    No longer half-akin to brute,
       For all we thought and loved and did,
       And hoped, and suffer'd, is but seed
    Of what in them is flower and fruit;

    Whereof the man, that with me trod
       This planet, was a noble type
       Appearing ere the times were ripe,
    That friend of mine who lives in God,

    That God, which ever lives and loves,
       One God, one law, one element,
       And one far-off divine event,
    To which the whole creation moves.

    • In the epilogue, Tennyson has a flashback to his sister's wedding. He remembers how he bounced his sister on his knee and cared for her (he must be quite a bit older than she is).
    • Now, though, it's time that he gives her away as a bride to another man.
    • We get a rundown of the ceremony as Tennyson watches it and participates.
    • This happy occasion causes the speaker to think back on how Arthur was once engaged to another of his sisters.
    • Tennyson leaves the wedding thinking cosmic thoughts about how he no longer thinks mankind is "half akin to brute" and how he has come to the realization that his friend dwells with God.
    • Through this, he comes to the certain conclusion (compared to the doubt he previously experienced) that God makes the entire universe move, and all are one within him.