Study Guide

In Memoriam A.H.H. Canto 29

By Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Canto 29

Lines 589-604

With such compelling cause to grieve
   As daily vexes household peace,
   And chains regret to his decease,
How dare we keep our Christmas-eve;

Which brings no more a welcome guest
   To enrich the threshold of the night
   With shower'd largess of delight
In dance and song and game and jest?

Yet go, and while the holly boughs
   Entwine the cold baptismal font,
   Make one wreath more for Use and Wont,
That guard the portals of the house;

Old sisters of a day gone by,
   Gray nurses, loving nothing new;
   Why should they miss their yearly due
Before their time? They too will die.

  • Still, Tennyson wonders how he can even celebrate Christmas in his grief.
  • His favorite guest will not be coming to engage in their usual games and exchange of gifts.
  • He's going to soldier on, though, and celebrate because of Use and Wont—personifications of Convention and Habit.
  • These are described as "Old sisters of a day gone by" (601) and "Gray nurses" (602). He doesn't want to keep these customs, but might as well, since they, too, will eventually die.