Study Guide

In Memoriam A.H.H. Canto 4

By Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Canto 4

Lines 93-108

To Sleep I give my powers away;
  My will is bondsman to the dark;
  I sit within a helmless bark,
And with my heart I muse and say:

O heart, how fares it with thee now,
  That thou should'st fail from thy desire,
  Who scarcely darest to inquire,
"What is it makes me beat so low?"

Something it is which thou hast lost,
  Some pleasure from thine early years.
  Break, thou deep vase of chilling tears,
That grief hath shaken into frost!

Such clouds of nameless trouble cross
  All night below the darken'd eyes;
  With morning wakes the will, and cries,
"Thou shalt not be the fool of loss."

  • So he decides to sleep, which is a way to get away from these feelings.
  • Now Tennyson's talking to his heart (more personification). Apparently his heart doesn't know what it's missing, and doesn't know why it's not beating as strongly as it once did.
  • The loss of his friend, we find out, happened many years prior to whenever now is in the poem. He wants to be able to cry about this, but his tears are locked in a "deep vase" that has been frozen.
  • When morning comes and he wakes up and his willpower takes over, he doesn't want to play the fool for his feelings of grief.