Study Guide

In Memoriam A.H.H. Canto 10

By Alfred, Lord Tennyson

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?).