Study Guide

In Memoriam A.H.H. Canto 96

By Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Canto 96

Lines 1985-2008

You say, but with no touch of scorn,
   Sweet-hearted, you, whose light-blue eyes
   Are tender over drowning flies,
You tell me, doubt is Devil-born.

I know not: one indeed I knew
   In many a subtle question versed,
   Who touch'd a jarring lyre at first,
But ever strove to make it true:

Perplext in faith, but pure in deeds,
   At last he beat his music out.
   There lives more faith in honest doubt,
Believe me, than in half the creeds.

He fought his doubts and gather'd strength,
   He would not make his judgment blind,
   He faced the spectres of the mind
And laid them: thus he came at length

To find a stronger faith his own;
   And Power was with him in the night,
   Which makes the darkness and the light,
And dwells not in the light alone,

But in the darkness and the cloud,
   As over Sinaï's peaks of old,
   While Israel made their gods of gold,
Altho' the trumpet blew so loud.

  • Who is the "you" here in the first line? We're not exactly sure, but it's obvious Tennyson's giving us an imaginary convo that he's having with someone.
  • And this someone's telling the speaker that doubt (lack of faith) comes straight from the devil.
  • Tennyson argues that this is not the case.
  • Then, we get a sort of paradox from the poet: there's more faith in someone who has honest doubt than in half the belief systems that are out there. And you can be "pure in deeds" but still have doubts, which appears to be worth something to Tennyson.
  • Paradoxically enough, the speaker seems to suggest here that struggling with doubt actually creates a faith that is stronger.