Study Guide

In Memoriam A.H.H. Canto 80

By Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Canto 80

Lines 1485-1500

If any vague desire should rise,
   That holy Death ere Arthur died
   Had moved me kindly from his side,
And dropt the dust on tearless eyes;

Then fancy shapes, as fancy can,
   The grief my loss in him had wrought,
   A grief as deep as life or thought,
But stay'd in peace with God and man.

I make a picture in the brain;
   I hear the sentence that he speaks;
   He bears the burthen of the weeks
But turns his burthen into gain.

His credit thus shall set me free;
   And, influence-rich to soothe and save,
   Unused example from the grave
Reach out dead hands to comfort me.

  • Sometimes, apparently, Tennyson wishes he had died before Arthur.
  • He imagines that, if this had been the case, Arthur would have handled his grief a bit better. Arthur wouldn't have lost his faith, like Tennyson has. He would have "stay'd in peace with God and man."
  • The speaker continues to imagine what this scenario would look like. Arthur would bear his grief better, turning it to good.
  • This thought really comforts Tennyson. It's like Arthur's "dead hands" are "reach[ing]" out from the grave to make him feel better. Aw—when's the last time "dead hands" gave you a warm and fuzzy feeling?