Study Guide

In Memoriam A.H.H. Canto 64

By Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Canto 64

Lines 1197-1224

Dost thou look back on what hath been,
   As some divinely gifted man,
   Whose life in low estate began
And on a simple village green;

Who breaks his birth's invidious bar,
  And grasps the skirts of happy chance,
  And breasts the blows of circumstance,
And grapples with his evil star;

Who makes by force his merit known
  And lives to clutch the golden keys,
  To mould a mighty state's decrees,
And shape the whisper of the throne;

And moving up from high to higher,
  Becomes on Fortune's crowning slope
  The pillar of a people's hope,
The centre of a world's desire;

Yet feels, as in a pensive dream,
  When all his active powers are still,
  A distant dearness in the hill,
A secret sweetness in the stream,

The limit of his narrower fate,
  While yet beside its vocal springs
  He play'd at counsellors and kings,
With one that was his earliest mate;

Who ploughs with pain his native lea
  And reaps the labour of his hands,
  Or in the furrow musing stands;
"Does my old friend remember me?"

  • Here's another metaphor that Tennyson plays with to show us the difference that now exists (or even previously existed?) between him and Arthur.
  • Arthur's life was like someone who started off simply and then, through a combination of good luck and struggling against misfortune ("evil star"), ended up achieving great things. It's a bit like the whole "American Dream" trope, but only all English-y.
  • The one left behind back in the village (that would be Tennyson in this analogy) always wonders, "Does my friend, who is now this great and important guy, remember me?"