Study Guide

In Memoriam A.H.H. Canto 27

By Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Canto 27

Lines 553-568

I envy not in any moods
   The captive void of noble rage,
   The linnet born within the cage,
That never knew the summer woods:

I envy not the beast that takes
   His license in the field of time,
   Unfetter'd by the sense of crime,
To whom a conscience never wakes;

Nor, what may count itself as blest,
   The heart that never plighted troth
   But stagnates in the weeds of sloth;
Nor any want-begotten rest.

I hold it true, whate'er befall;
   I feel it, when I sorrow most;
   'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.

  • The speaker doesn't envy a captive who isn't angry, or a linnet (again with the birds) that is born in captivity. He also doesn't envy a beast without a conscience, or anyone who hasn't been true and yet considers himself blessed. Maybe he's talking about a hypocrite here? Yep, that sounds about right.
  • Well, at this point we're thinking "Duh." Who would envy or want to be any of those things?
  • And bam—in that last stanza of the canto, things fall into place and make sense.
  • Famous Line Alert: "It is better to have loved and lost / Than never to have loved at all" (567-568). So, it's better to go through something and have the experience than to never have the experience at all. Even though he's hurting, he at least had the experiences with Arthur and has the memories.
  • That's something the bird in the cage, or a cowed captive, or a beast without conscience will never have.
  • This seems like a turning point for Tennyson. He's starting to get somewhere with his grief.