Study Guide

In Memoriam A.H.H. Canto 114

By Alfred, Lord Tennyson

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.