Study Guide

In Memoriam A.H.H. Canto 41

By Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Canto 41

Lines 821-844

Thy spirit ere our fatal loss
   Did ever rise from high to higher;
   As mounts the heavenward altar-fire,
As flies the lighter thro' the gross.

But thou art turn'd to something strange,
   And I have lost the links that bound
   Thy changes; here upon the ground,
No more partaker of thy change.

Deep folly! yet that this could be—
   That I could wing my will with might
   To leap the grades of life and light,
And flash at once, my friend, to thee.

For tho' my nature rarely yields
   To that vague fear implied in death;
   Nor shudders at the gulfs beneath,
The howlings from forgotten fields;

Yet oft when sundown skirts the moor
   An inner trouble I behold,
   A spectral doubt which makes me cold,
That I shall be thy mate no more,

Tho' following with an upward mind
   The wonders that have come to thee,
   Thro' all the secular to-be,
But evermore a life behind.

  • Before Arthur died, his spirit was rising. We think that  Tennyson means this in an intellectual sense: he was becoming more and more wise.
  • There's two apt similes here for things rising: "As mounts the heavenward altar-fire" and "As flies the lighter thro' the gross."
  • The first just means his spirit rose like the flames on an altar-fire. Flames lick upward.
  • The second one is using a more scientific simile, and means that lighter gases rise up through heavier ones.
  • Using a scientific analogy makes sense, considering the time period Tennyson lived in (for some further tidbits on this, head on over to "Setting").
  • Where Tennyson was once able to ascend with Arthur, he can do so no more. He wishes he could use his willpower and strength to jump up and be with his friend once again.
  • He's afraid that when he dies, he won't end up where Arthur is.