Study Guide

In Memoriam A.H.H. Canto 54

By Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Canto 54

Lines 1033-1052

Oh, yet we trust that somehow good
   Will be the final goal of ill,
   To pangs of nature, sins of will,
Defects of doubt, and taints of blood;

That nothing walks with aimless feet;
   That not one life shall be destroy'd,
   Or cast as rubbish to the void,
When God hath made the pile complete;

That not a worm is cloven in vain;
   That not a moth with vain desire
   Is shrivell'd in a fruitless fire,
Or but subserves another's gain.

Behold, we know not anything;
   I can but trust that good shall fall
   At last—far off—at last, to all,
And every winter change to spring.

So runs my dream: but what am I?
   An infant crying in the night:
   An infant crying for the light:
And with no language but a cry.

  • This canto is all about purpose. It is human nature to believe that everything is for the good, and that everything has a purpose, down to even a worm being cut in half.
  • The speaker, though, laments that humans can never really know anything. We're just great big babies who cry out in the night. We don't know who we are or what we are, and we don't even have a way to express ourselves other than inarticulate bawling. Feel better about yourself yet?