Study Guide

In Memoriam A.H.H. Canto 39

By Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Canto 39

Lines 777-788

Old warder of these buried bones,
   And answering now my random stroke
   With fruitful cloud and living smoke,
Dark yew, that graspest at the stones

And dippest toward the dreamless head,
   To thee too comes the golden hour
   When flower is feeling after flower;
But Sorrow—fixt upon the dead,

And darkening the dark graves of men,—
   What whisper'd from her lying lips?
   Thy gloom is kindled at the tips,
And passes into gloom again.

  • Tennyson is so gloomy and sad that not even the springtime yew tree can make him feel better.
  • Here's a more positive image of the yew tree first mentioned back in Canto 2. If you don't remember it, we'll wait for you to review—and to take a gander at our "Symbols, Imagery, Wordplay" section for some ideas.
  • Even though the tree is still grasping at the body below it, it's now flowering.
  • The "fruitful cloud" and "living smoke" are basically blossoms flowing in the spring wind.