Study Guide

In Memoriam A.H.H. Canto 40

By Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Canto 40

Lines 789-820

Could we forget the widow'd hour
   And look on Spirits breathed away,
   As on a maiden in the day
When first she wears her orange-flower!

When crown'd with blessing she doth rise
   To take her latest leave of home,
   And hopes and light regrets that come
Make April of her tender eyes;

And doubtful joys the father move,
   And tears are on the mother's face,
   As parting with a long embrace
She enters other realms of love;

Her office there to rear, to teach,
   Becoming as is meet and fit
   A link among the days, to knit
The generations each with each;

And, doubtless, unto thee is given
   A life that bears immortal fruit
   In those great offices that suit
The full-grown energies of heaven.

Ay me, the difference I discern!
   How often shall her old fireside
   Be cheer'd with tidings of the bride,
How often she herself return,

And tell them all they would have told,
   And bring her babe, and make her boast,
   Till even those that miss'd her most
Shall count new things as dear as old:

But thou and I have shaken hands,
   Till growing winters lay me low;
   My paths are in the fields I know.
And thine in undiscover'd lands.

  • Why's Tenny all of a sudden talking about some girl getting married? Well, that's easy-peasy: it's an extended metaphor, comparing Arthur's death and presumed rebirth in Heaven to a maiden leaving her parents' home and starting a new life as a bride.
  • This analogy doesn't comfort Tennyson, though. At least, he argues, when a bride leaves home she'll eventually return to visit, or at least news of how she's doing will make its way back to the family (even though they didn't have Facebook or Instagram in the Victorian period).
  • But in this case, Arthur's already gone; their paths have already parted.