Study Guide

In Memoriam A.H.H. Canto 28

By Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Canto 28

Lines 569-588

The time draws near the birth of Christ:
   The moon is hid; the night is still;
   The Christmas bells from hill to hill
Answer each other in the mist.

Four voices of four hamlets round,
   From far and near, on mead and moor,
   Swell out and fail, as if a door
Were shut between me and the sound:

Each voice four changes on the wind,
  That now dilate, and now decrease,
   Peace and goodwill, goodwill and peace,
Peace and goodwill, to all mankind.

This year I slept and woke with pain,
   I almost wish'd no more to wake,
   And that my hold on life would break
Before I heard those bells again:

But they my troubled spirit rule,
  For they controll'd me when a boy;
   They bring me sorrow touch'd with joy,
The merry merry bells of Yule.

  • We're getting another marker for the passage time: it's the Christmas season.
  • Tennyson can hear the Christmas bells echoing throughout his village. He even recreates this sonically with: "Peace and goodwill, goodwill and peace / Peace and goodwill, to all mankind" (579-580). These four phrases replicate the tolling of the overlapping bells.
  • He notes that for this entire year (again, time seems shaky) he's been feeling the pain of loss—even to the point where he wished he were dead (yikes!).
  • The bells, however, seem to soothe him. They "rule" his "troubled spirit" (585) and bring him both sadness and joy.