Study Guide

In Memoriam A.H.H. Canto 124

By Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Canto 124

Lines 2617-2640

That which we dare invoke to bless;
   Our dearest faith; our ghastliest doubt;
   He, They, One, All; within, without;
The Power in darkness whom we guess;

I found Him not in world or sun,
   Or eagle's wing, or insect's eye;
   Nor thro' the questions men may try,
The petty cobwebs we have spun:

If e'er when faith had fall'n asleep,
   I heard a voice "believe no more"
   And heard an ever-breaking shore
That tumbled in the Godless deep;

A warmth within the breast would melt
   The freezing reason's colder part,
   And like a man in wrath the heart
Stood up and answer'd "I have felt."

No, like a child in doubt and fear:
   But that blind clamour made me wise;
   Then was I as a child that cries,
But, crying, knows his father near;

And what I am beheld again
   What is, and no man understands;
   And out of darkness came the hands
That reach thro' nature, moulding men.

  • The speaker claims he does not find God ("He, They, One, All") in natural things: "world," "sun," "insect's eye," or "petty cobwebs" (nor in things human beings do, which last as long and are as fragile as cobwebs in the grand scheme of things).
  • Instead, Tennyson finds God in emotions: "I have felt." He compares this to a child crying and through that cry knows that his father is close by.
  • Wait a minute. This is the second time the speaker has used the analogy of a baby or child crying. Go back and check out Canto 54 if you don't remember.
  • Here, though, the crying doesn't seem so hopeless. There's a father close by to comfort the child.