Study Guide

In Memoriam A.H.H. Canto 120

By Alfred, Lord Tennyson

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.