Study Guide

In Memoriam A.H.H. Canto 18

By Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Canto 18

Lines 381-400

'Tis well; 'tis something; we may stand
   Where he in English earth is laid,
   And from his ashes may be made
The violet of his native land.

'Tis little; but it looks in truth
   As if the quiet bones were blest
   Among familiar names to rest
And in the places of his youth.

Come then, pure hands, and bear the head
   That sleeps or wears the mask of sleep,
   And come, whatever loves to weep,
And hear the ritual of the dead.

Ah yet, ev'n yet, if this might be,
   I, falling on his faithful heart,
   Would breathing thro' his lips impart
The life that almost dies in me;

That dies not, but endures with pain,
   And slowly forms the firmer mind,
   Treasuring the look it cannot find,
The words that are not heard again.

  • The speaker starts to get a little optimistic here and admits that a beautiful violet may grow where his friend has been buried, nurtured from his friend's "ashes" and the "English earth."
  • This is a more positive image of human remains and nature mingling that the rather ominous yew tree we saw back in Canto 1.
  • Tennyson takes some comfort in the fact that his friend is laid to rest "among familiar names."
  • Then he lapses right back into his despair by entertaining the thought that, if he could breathe his friend back to life, he would.
  • He notes that he himself feels like life is about to leave his body, but it doesn't and that's because he's just enduring the pain. That's all there is in his view right now.