Study Guide

In Memoriam A.H.H. Canto 14

By Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Canto 14

Lines 301-320

If one should bring me this report,
   That thou hadst touch'd the land to-day,
   And I went down unto the quay,
And found thee lying in the port;

And standing, muffled round with woe,
   Should see thy passengers in rank
   Come stepping lightly down the plank,
And beckoning unto those they know;

And if along with these should come
   The man I held as half-divine;
   Should strike a sudden hand in mine,
And ask a thousand things of home;

And I should tell him all my pain,
   And how my life had droop'd of late,
   And he should sorrow o'er my state
And marvel what possess'd my brain;

And I perceived no touch of change,
   No hint of death in all his frame,
   But found him all in all the same,
I should not feel it to be strange.

  • Tennyson engages in some more fanciful imaginings.
  • This whole canto uses the word "should" many times. We're going to drop a Grammar Bomb on you and remind you that "should" is the past conditional form of "shall." Conditionals tell us that we're in the realm of potential or possibility. These are things that aren't necessarily happening, but that—under the right conditions—might happen or could happen.
  • Here, the speaker goes to great lengths to tell us that if on this very day he came to the ship and saw Arthur stepping off of it, he wouldn't be surprised. No—he doesn't imagine Arthur as a zombie here, but rather still alive.
  • And we get the idea that Tennyson wouldn't be surprised by this at all, because he regards his friend as "half-divine" (which sort of links him with Jesus from the Prologue).