Study Guide

In Memoriam A.H.H. Canto 9

By Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Canto 9

Lines 201-220

Fair ship, that from the Italian shore
   Sailest the placid ocean-plains
   With my lost Arthur's loved remains,
Spread thy full wings, and waft him o'er.

So draw him home to those that mourn
   In vain; a favourable speed
   Ruffle thy mirror'd mast, and lead
Thro' prosperous floods his holy urn.

All night no ruder air perplex
   Thy sliding keel, till Phosphor, bright
   As our pure love, thro' early light
Shall glimmer on the dewy decks.

Sphere all your lights around, above;
   Sleep, gentle heavens, before the prow;
   Sleep, gentle winds, as he sleeps now,
My friend, the brother of my love;

My Arthur, whom I shall not see
  Till all my widow'd race be run;
  Dear as the mother to the son,
More than my brothers are to me.

  • Okay, so we've gone from a dark house on a winding street to a love affair between a man and a woman, and now Tennyson's talking to a ship. It's the ship that brought his friend's body back to England from Italy.
  • And now we have a name. The guy Tennyson is mourning was named Arthur.
  • He urges the ship to quickly and safely bring Arthur's remains home. It must be difficult for Tennyson to speak of this, since these lines use lots of enjambment—way more than we saw back in line 7. He keeps the sentence starting in line 206 going all the way into line 208, so he really wants to get this idea across.
  • Tennyson wishes that no winds will disturb the boat, and that the heavens and winds will sleep as it's making its way over. We're sure that by "heavens" and "winds" he's talking about harsh weather. He wants these to sleep as his friend is now sleeping.
  • There's something funky with time going on here. Tennyson is speaking as if the ship is coming with Arthur's body right now, but several stanzas ago, it was many years since he had died.
  • So things aren't necessarily happening in chronological order (take a gander at the "Form and Meter" section for further deets on this).
  • We're getting some more info now on Arthur. He was apparently the brother of Tennyson's woman.
  • The last stanza in this canto is heavy with grief. He describes his life as "widow'd" without Arthur (wow...heavy-duty), and claims his friend is as dear to him as a mother to a son or as close as brothers. What a mixture of metaphors for their relationship.