Study Guide

In Memoriam A.H.H. Canto 87

By Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Canto 87

Lines 1729-1768

I past beside the reverend walls
   In which of old I wore the gown;
   I roved at random thro' the town,
And saw the tumult of the halls;

And heard once more in college fanes
   The storm their high-built organs make,
   And thunder-music, rolling, shake
The prophet blazon'd on the panes;

And caught once more the distant shout,
   The measured pulse of racing oars
   Among the willows; paced the shores
And many a bridge, and all about

The same gray flats again, and felt
   The same, but not the same; and last
   Up that long walk of limes I past
To see the rooms in which he dwelt.

Another name was on the door:
   I linger'd; all within was noise
   Of songs, and clapping hands, and boys
That crash'd the glass and beat the floor;

Where once we held debate, a band
   Of youthful friends, on mind and art,
   And labour, and the changing mart,
And all the framework of the land;

When one would aim an arrow fair,
   But send it slackly from the string;
   And one would pierce an outer ring,
And one an inner, here and there;

And last the master-bowman, he,
   Would cleave the mark. A willing ear
   We lent him. Who, but hung to hear
The rapt oration flowing free

From point to point, with power and grace
   And music in the bounds of law,
   To those conclusions when we saw
The God within him light his face,

And seem to lift the form, and glow
   In azure orbits heavenly-wise;
   And over those ethereal eyes
The bar of Michael Angelo?

  • The speaker walks through his old college. This is poetically conveyed with the idea of wearing a graduation gown, or scholar's attire. This becomes explicit in the second stanza, when he straight-up tells us he's walking through his old college haunts. This would be Trinity College, Cambridge, where he went to school with Arthur.
  • Things are different, though. There's a different name on the door to the dorm room that used to be Arthur's.
  • Their group of friends would listen to Arthur and see how the spirit of God would cause him to light up. His appearance would be as beautiful as something painted by Michelangelo.