Study Guide

In Memoriam A.H.H. Canto 118

By Alfred, Lord Tennyson

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.