Study Guide

In Memoriam A.H.H. Canto 35

By Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Canto 35

Lines 701-724

Yet if some voice that man could trust
  Should murmur from the narrow house,
  "The cheeks drop in; the body bows;
Man dies: nor is there hope in dust:"

Might I not say? "Yet even here,
   But for one hour, O Love, I strive
   To keep so sweet a thing alive."
But I should turn mine ears and hear

The moanings of the homeless sea,
   The sound of streams that swift or slow
   Draw down Æonian hills, and sow
The dust of continents to be;

And Love would answer with a sigh,
   "The sound of that forgetful shore
   Will change my sweetness more and more,
Half-dead to know that I shall die."

O me, what profits it to put
   An idle case? If Death were seen
   At first as Death, Love had not been,
Or been in narrowest working shut,

Mere fellowship of sluggish moods,
   Or in his coarsest Satyr-shape
   Had bruised the herb and crush'd the grape,
And bask'd and batten'd in the woods.

  • He starts to fight back against the voice of doubt here.
  • Some trusted authority might come along and say, "Hey—people just rot. Their faces cave in and their bodies shrivel up. They turn to dust, so just deal. There's nothing afterwards."
  • If this happened, the speaker would turn to Love (he's personifying again) and say, "Well, so what? Even if it's just for a short time, I'll try to keep something so wonderful alive."
  • Love, though, responds that time will make its sweetness lessen and that once you know you're going to die, you're already half-dead—wow, how depressing.
  • Then Tennyson recognizes that, if we realize right away that when you die, you're dead—there's no immortality—there would be no love. Or else it would just be shallow, or lusty and violent.
  • Where do we get "lusty and violent?" Well, check out that "Satyr" in the last stanza. Satyrs are associated with plenty of drinking and sexual looseness.
  • Plus, there's all that bruising and battening going on in the last line, which is violent imagery.
  • Also, pay attention to the alliteration in those last two lines. Proceed to "Sound Check" for more info on what's going on there.