Study Guide

In Memoriam A.H.H. Canto 51

By Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Canto 51

Lines 985-1000

Do we indeed desire the dead
   Should still be near us at our side?
   Is there no baseness we would hide?
No inner vileness that we dread?

Shall he for whose applause I strove,
   I had such reverence for his blame,
   See with clear eye some hidden shame
And I be lessen'd in his love?

I wrong the grave with fears untrue:
   Shall love be blamed for want of faith?
   There must be wisdom with great Death:
The dead shall look me thro' and thro'.

Be near us when we climb or fall:
   Ye watch, like God, the rolling hours
  With larger other eyes than ours,
To make allowance for us all.

  • Now, the speaker starts to get scared that his dead friend's spirit will be able to see some bad things about him.
  • Maybe living people can't hide their inner sins or bad thoughts from them, and that might make Tennyson seem less worthy in Arthur's eyes.
  • The dead, Tennyson suggests, gain a kind of supernatural wisdom after dying, which allows them to see into people's innermost beings.
  • But they're kind of like God now and have "larger other eyes" than those that mere mortals have.
  • This is a freaky image—that the dead have huge, piercing eyes—but there's an upside: they "make allowance" for people, which means they aren't too judgy.