Study Guide

In Memoriam A.H.H. Canto 109

By Alfred, Lord Tennyson

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?