Study Guide

In Memoriam A.H.H. Canto 73

By Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Canto 73

Lines 1365-1380

So many worlds, so much to do,
   So little done, such things to be,
   How know I what had need of thee,
For thou wert strong as thou wert true?

The fame is quench'd that I foresaw,
   The head hath miss'd an earthly wreath:
   I curse not nature, no, nor death;
For nothing is that errs from law.

We pass; the path that each man trod
   Is dim, or will be dim, with weeds:
   What fame is left for human deeds
In endless age? It rests with God.

O hollow wraith of dying fame,
   Fade wholly, while the soul exults,
   And self-infolds the large results
Of force that would have forged a name.

  • There's so many worlds and so much to do, the speaker remarks.
  • He acknowledges that he has no idea if Arthur had a higher purpose, if something or someone else out there needed him for something.
  • The fame or great reputation that Tennyson thought he saw for Arthur has been extinguished.
  • Plus, Arthur isn't getting an "earthly wreath." We think this means he's not going to be figuratively crowned with laurel, a gesture of honor or victory in ancient Greece. (In fact, it will be Tennyson who will wear a figurative laurel crown when he's made Poet Laureate of England.)
  • He can't be angry with nature, or even with death itself, for taking Arthur away because these two forces have to follow a law—presumably one that is set down by God.
  • Only God knows that for sure what will be left over of human deeds in the afterlife: "It rests with God."