In Memoriam Poem by Alfred Tennyson summary line by line

In Memoriam Poem by Alfred Tennyson summary line by line

In Memoriam Poem by Alfred Tennyson summary line by line-In Memoriam A.H.H. is a poignant elegy penned by the esteemed Victorian poet Alfred Lord Tennyson. 

In Memoriam Poem by Alfred Tennyson summary line by line

In Memoriam Poem by Alfred Tennyson summary line by line-Crafted over seventeen years, from 1833 to 1850, this extensive poem serves as a tribute to Tennyson's close friend, Arthur Henry Hallam, who passed away unexpectedly at the tender age of 22. Hallam's untimely death deeply affected Tennyson, leading him on a literary journey that both mourns his friend's loss and delves into profound universal themes such as love, grief, faith, and the essence of existence.

In Memoriam Poem summary

"Strong Son of God, immortal Love,"

The speaker addresses God, referring to Him as a powerful and eternal force.

"Whom we, that have not seen thy face,"

They acknowledge that they have not seen God directly but embrace Him through faith alone.

"By faith, and faith alone, embrace,"

The speaker emphasizes the importance of faith in their relationship with God, as they believe in Him despite not having tangible evidence.

"Believing where we cannot prove;"

They assert their belief in God even in the absence of empirical proof, highlighting the role of faith in their spiritual connection.

"Thine are these orbs of light and shade;"

The speaker acknowledges God's sovereignty over the celestial bodies, symbolized by "orbs of light and shade."

"Thou madest Life in man and brute;"

They attribute the creation of life in both humans and animals to God.

"Thou madest Death; and lo, thy foot"

The speaker acknowledges God as the creator of death as well, emphasizing His omnipotence over all aspects of existence.

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"Is on the skull which thou hast made."

They symbolically depict God's dominion over death by referencing His foot on the skull, representing mortality.


"Thou wilt not leave us in the dust:"

The speaker expresses confidence that God will not abandon humanity to oblivion or insignificance.

"Thou madest man, he knows not why,"

They reflect on the mystery of human existence, acknowledging that humans do not fully understand the purpose of their creation.

"He thinks he was not made to die;"

Despite their mortality, humans often struggle to accept the inevitability of death, suggesting a sense of denial or resistance.

"And thou hast made him: thou art just."

The speaker affirms God's justice in creating humanity, acknowledging His divine wisdom and sovereignty in the face of human uncertainty and mortality.

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"Thou seemest human and divine,"

The speaker acknowledges the dual nature of God, seeing Him as both human-like and divine.

"The highest, holiest manhood, thou."

They praise God as embodying the epitome of humanity and holiness.

"Our wills are ours, we know not how;"

The speaker reflects on human agency, acknowledging the mystery of free will and its origin.

"Our wills are ours, to make them thine."

Despite possessing free will, humans recognize their desire to align their choices with God's will.

"Our little systems have their day;"

The speaker acknowledges the transient nature of human ideologies and belief systems.

"They have their day and cease to be:"

Human systems of thought are temporary and eventually fade away.

"They are but broken lights of thee,"

The speaker suggests that human ideologies are imperfect reflections of the divine truth embodied by God.

"And thou, O Lord, art more than they."

God surpasses human understanding and transcends the limitations of human systems of thought.

"We have but faith: we cannot know;"

Humans rely on faith rather than certainty, recognizing the limits of human knowledge.

"For knowledge is of things we see"

Knowledge is limited to tangible, observable phenomena.

"And yet we trust it comes from thee,"

Despite the limitations of human knowledge, the speaker trusts that true understanding ultimately comes from God.

"A beam in darkness: let it grow."

Knowledge is likened to a light shining in darkness, with the speaker expressing hope that it will continue to expand and illuminate.

"Let knowledge grow from more to more,"


The speaker desires the progression of knowledge and understanding.

"But more of reverence in us dwell;"

However, they emphasize the importance of cultivating reverence and respect for God alongside intellectual growth.

"That mind and soul, according well,

They hope that the intellect and spirituality of humanity will harmonize and align with God's will.

"May make one music as before,"

Ultimately, the speaker envisions a unity of mind and spirit, creating harmony akin to celestial music, as humanity acknowledges and submits to the divine.

"But vaster. We are fools and slight;"

The speaker acknowledges their own insignificance compared to the vastness of God's existence.

"We mock thee when we do not fear:"

They confess that humans often ridicule or dismiss God when they should instead hold Him in awe and reverence.

"But help thy foolish ones to bear;"

The speaker implores God to assist those who are ignorant or foolish in coping with life's challenges.

"Help thy vain worlds to bear thy light."

They ask God to help humanity, which often pursues empty and superficial pursuits, to bear the weight of His divine illumination.

"Forgive what seem'd my sin in me;"

The speaker asks for forgiveness for their perceived transgressions or shortcomings.

"What seem'd my worth since I began;"

They also seek forgiveness for their pride or inflated sense of self-worth.

"For merit lives from man to man,"

The speaker acknowledges that human value or worth is determined by interactions among people rather than by comparison to God.

"And not from man, O Lord, to thee."

They assert that true worthiness comes from human relationships rather than from humans to God.

"Forgive my grief for one removed,"

The speaker seeks forgiveness for their sorrow over the loss of a loved one.

"Thy creature, whom I found so fair."

They refer to the departed loved one as a creation of God, whom they admired for their beauty and goodness.

"I trust he lives in thee, and there

They express belief that the departed loved one now resides in God's presence.

"I find him worthier to be loved."

Despite their grief, the speaker finds solace in the belief that the loved one is now in God's care and is therefore even more deserving of love.

"Forgive these wild and wandering cries,"

The speaker asks for forgiveness for their erratic and aimless expressions of emotion.

"Confusions of a wasted youth;"

They attribute their tumultuous feelings to the confusion and mistakes of their youthful years.

"Forgive them where they fail in truth,"

The speaker acknowledges their shortcomings and asks for forgiveness for moments where they deviated from truth or righteousness.

"And in thy wisdom make me wise."

They request divine guidance and wisdom from God, recognizing their need for greater understanding and discernment.



"I held it truth, with him who sings"

The speaker previously believed, along with a singer, in a particular truth.

"To one clear harp in divers tones,"

This truth was likened to a harmonious melody played on a diverse harp.

"That men may rise on stepping-stones Of their dead selves to higher things."

The truth held that individuals could elevate themselves by overcoming their past selves and striving for higher goals.

"But who shall so forecast the years And find in loss a gain to match?"

The speaker questions whether anyone can accurately predict the future and find an equivalent gain to compensate for loss.

"Or reach a hand thro' time to catch The far-off interest of tears?"

They wonder if it's possible to grasp the distant significance or meaning behind tears shed over time.

"Let Love clasp Grief lest both be drown'd,"

The speaker suggests that love and grief should be embraced together to prevent being overwhelmed by either.

"Let darkness keep her raven gloss:"

They imply that darkness, symbolized by a raven's dark feathers, should maintain its mysterious allure.

"Ah, sweeter to be drunk with loss, To dance with death, to beat the ground,"

The speaker finds a certain sweetness in embracing loss and mortality, even if it means experiencing pain or sorrow.

"Than that the victor Hours should scorn The long result of love, and boast,"

They prefer the idea of facing loss and death over the potential scorn from time itself, which might belittle the enduring impact of love and loss.

"`Behold the man that loved and lost, But all he was is overworn.'"



"Old Yew, which graspest at the stones"

The speaker addresses an ancient yew tree, noting its roots entwined among the stones that mark the graves of the dead.

"That name the under-lying dead,"

They mention that these stones memorialize those buried beneath them.

"Thy fibres net the dreamless head, Thy roots are wrapt about the bones."

The roots of the yew tree intertwine with the bones of the deceased, symbolizing the tree's connection to death and mortality.

"The seasons bring the flower again, And bring the firstling to the flock;"

Despite the yew tree's association with death, the changing seasons bring renewal and life to the surrounding environment.

"And in the dusk of thee, the clock Beats out the little lives of men."

The yew tree stands as a silent witness to the passing of time, symbolized by the ticking of a clock, marking the fleeting existence of humanity.

"O, not for thee the glow, the bloom, Who changest not in any gale,"

The yew tree remains unchanged by the passing seasons or weather, lacking the vibrant beauty of other trees.

"Nor branding summer suns avail To touch thy thousand years of gloom:"

Even the warmth and brightness of summer cannot penetrate the enduring gloom of the ancient yew tree, which has stood for centuries.

"And gazing on thee, sullen tree, Sick for thy stubborn hardihood,"

The speaker, feeling a sense of sickness or weariness, envies the yew tree's steadfastness and resilience.

"I seem to fail from out my blood And grow incorporate into thee."

They express a feeling of merging or becoming one with the tree, losing their own vitality and becoming absorbed into its enduring presence.


"O Sorrow, cruel fellowship,"

The speaker addresses sorrow as a harsh companion, emphasizing its pervasive influence.

"O Priestess in the vaults of Death,"

They personify sorrow as a priestess residing in the depths of death, suggesting its association with grief and mortality.

"O sweet and bitter in a breath, What whispers from thy lying lip?"

Sorrow is described as possessing both sweetness and bitterness, yet the speaker questions the truth of its whispers.

"'The stars,' she whispers, `blindly run;"

Sorrow speaks of the stars moving aimlessly, suggesting a sense of cosmic indifference.


"A web is wov'n across the sky; From out waste places comes a cry, And murmurs from the dying sun:"

The speaker describes a sense of entrapment and desolation, with imagery of a web woven across the sky and sounds emanating from desolate places.

"'And all the phantom, Nature, stands— With all the music in her tone, A hollow echo of my own,— A hollow form with empty hands.'"

Sorrow perceives nature as a hollow and empty reflection of itself, devoid of true meaning or substance.

"And shall I take a thing so blind, Embrace her as my natural good;"

The speaker questions whether they should accept sorrow, even though it seems blind and devoid of purpose, as something natural and beneficial.

"Or crush her, like a vice of blood, Upon the threshold of the mind?"

They consider the possibility of rejecting sorrow and suppressing it forcefully, likening it to a vice tightening its grip on the mind.



"To Sleep I give my powers away;"

The speaker surrenders their control and vitality to sleep, allowing themselves to be enveloped by its darkness.

"My will is bondsman to the dark;"

They describe their willpower as being enslaved or subservient to the darkness of sleep.

"I sit within a helmless bark, And with my heart I muse and say:"

The speaker likens themselves to a ship without a rudder, adrift in the sea of sleep, where they contemplate their emotions and thoughts.

"O heart, how fares it with thee now, That thou should'st fail from thy desire,"

They question the state of their heart, which seems to have weakened or diminished in its desires or aspirations.


"Who scarcely darest to inquire, 'What is it makes me beat so low?'"

The speaker hesitates to question why their heart feels so subdued or despondent.

"Something it is which thou hast lost, Some pleasure from thine early years."

They suggest that their heart has lost something valuable, perhaps a source of joy or contentment from earlier times.

"Break, thou deep vase of chilling tears, That grief hath shaken into frost!"

The speaker urges their heart to release the frozen tears of grief, symbolizing the need to confront and thaw the emotions that have been suppressed.

"Such clouds of nameless trouble cross All night below the darken'd eyes;"

They describe experiencing vague and troubling thoughts or emotions throughout the night, causing distress beneath closed eyelids.

"With morning wakes the will, and cries, 'Thou shalt not be the fool of loss.'"

Despite the nighttime turmoil, the speaker's willpower awakens with the morning light, determined not to be overwhelmed or controlled by feelings of loss or grief.


"I sometimes hold it half a sin To put in words the grief I feel;"

The speaker feels conflicted about expressing their grief verbally, seeing it as partially wrong or inappropriate.

"For words, like Nature, half reveal And half conceal the Soul within."

They liken words to the natural world, capable of both revealing and concealing the depth of one's soul or innermost emotions.

"But, for the unquiet heart and brain, A use in measured language lies;"

Despite their reservations, the speaker acknowledges the usefulness of employing measured language to soothe an unsettled heart and mind.

"The sad mechanic exercise, Like dull narcotics, numbing pain."

They compare the act of expressing grief through words to a mechanical process or a dull pain-relieving substance, suggesting that it serves to numb emotional pain.

"In words, like weeds, I'll wrap me o'er, Like coarsest clothes against the cold:"

The speaker decides to clothe themselves in words, likening them to weeds or coarse garments, as a form of protection against emotional chill or distress.

"But that large grief which these enfold Is given in outline and no more."

However, they recognize that the grief encompassed by words is only outlined or partially depicted, implying that the full extent of their sorrow remains ineffable or beyond expression.


"One writes, that Other friends remain,' That Loss is common to the race'—"

The speaker reflects on common platitudes offered by others in times of loss, suggesting that such sentiments, though well-intentioned, often feel empty and inadequate.

"And common is the commonplace, And vacant chaff well meant for grain."

They dismiss these commonplace expressions of sympathy as hollow and meaningless, comparing them to worthless chaff masquerading as valuable grain.

"That loss is common would not make My own less bitter, rather more:"

The speaker rejects the notion that the universality of loss diminishes the intensity of their own grief, asserting that it only amplifies their sorrow.

"Too common! Never morning wore To evening, but some heart did break."

They emphasize the pervasive nature of grief, noting that every passing day witnesses the breaking of hearts somewhere in the world.

"O father, wheresoe'er thou be, Who pledgest now thy gallant son;"

The speaker addresses their father, acknowledging the loss of his son, who died gallantly in battle.

"A shot, ere half thy draught be done, Hath still'd the life that beat from thee."

They lament the abrupt end of the father's joy and pride in his son's accomplishments, cut short by a fatal shot in battle.

"O mother, praying God will save Thy sailor,—while thy head is bow'd,"

They turn to the mother, whose prayers for the safety of her sailor son go unanswered as he meets his demise at sea.

"His heavy-shotted hammock-shroud Drops in his vast and wandering grave."

The sailor's body is consigned to the depths of the sea, buried in a weighted hammock, symbolizing the vastness and mystery of his watery grave.


"Ye know no more than I who wrought At that last hour to please him well;"

The speaker reflects on their efforts to please the departed loved ones in their final moments, sharing in the grief and uncertainty of their fate.

"Expecting still his advent home; And ever met him on his way With wishes, thinking, here to-day,' Or here to-morrow will he come.'"

They express the longing and anticipation for the return of the loved ones, always hoping to see them again, even as reality shatters those hopes.

"O somewhere, meek, unconscious dove, That sittest ranging golden hair;"

The speaker addresses a young woman, describing her as gentle and unaware, idly arranging her golden hair.

"And glad to find thyself so fair, Poor child, that waitest for thy love!"

They empathize with the girl's innocence and longing for love, despite her modesty.

"For now her father's chimney glows In expectation of a guest;"

The speaker describes the anticipation in the girl's home as they await the arrival of a visitor.

"And thinking `this will please him best,' She takes a riband or a rose;"

The girl prepares herself for the guest's arrival, choosing a ribbon or a rose as a gift, hoping to please him.

"For he will see them on to-night; And with the thought her colour burns;"

She anticipates that the guest will notice and appreciate her chosen adornments, blushing with excitement at the idea.

"And, having left the glass, she turns Once more to set a ringlet right;"

After checking her appearance in the mirror, she adjusts her ringlets, ensuring she looks her best for the guest's arrival.

"And, even when she turn'd, the curse Had fallen, and her future Lord Was drown'd in passing thro' the ford, Or kill'd in falling from his horse."

Despite her hopeful anticipation, tragedy strikes as news arrives that the man she expected to be her future husband has met with a fatal accident.

"O what to her shall be the end? And what to me remains of good?"

The speaker questions the girl's fate and reflects on their own loss and despair in the face of the tragedy.

"To her, perpetual maidenhood, And unto me no second friend."

They foresee a future of perpetual maidenhood for the girl, robbed of the chance for love and companionship, while they mourn the loss of a potential friend or ally.


"Dark house, by which once more I stand Here in the long unlovely street,"

The speaker finds themselves standing outside a familiar but now desolate house in a dreary street.

"Doors, where my heart was used to beat So quickly, waiting for a hand,"

They recall the anticipation they once felt waiting for someone at these doors, their heart beating with excitement.

"A hand that can be clasp'd no more— Behold me, for I cannot sleep,"

The person they used to wait for is no longer there, and the speaker is restless and unable to sleep.

"And like a guilty thing I creep At earliest morning to the door."

Despite feeling guilt and sorrow, they find themselves drawn back to the door early in the morning.

"He is not here; but far away The noise of life begins again,"

The absence of the person they long for is emphasized as the sounds of everyday life continue elsewhere.

"And ghastly thro' the drizzling rain On the bald street breaks the blank day."

The day breaks bleakly with drizzling rain, mirroring the speaker's desolate mood.


"A happy lover who has come To look on her that loves him well,"

The speaker imagines a happy lover arriving to see their beloved.

"Who 'lights and rings the gateway bell, And learns her gone and far from home;"

However, their joy turns to disappointment upon discovering that the beloved is not there.

"He saddens, all the magic light Dies off at once from bower and hall,"

The lover's happiness dissipates, leaving the surroundings devoid of joy.

"And all the place is dark, and all The chambers emptied of delight:"

The absence of the beloved leaves the surroundings dark and devoid of happiness.

"So find I every pleasant spot In which we two were wont to meet,"

The speaker feels a similar emptiness in every place where they used to meet their beloved.

"The field, the chamber, and the street, For all is dark where thou art not."

Without their beloved, every place feels dark and joyless.

"Yet as that other, wandering there In those deserted walks, may find A flower beat with rain and wind,"

Just as someone else may find a flower surviving despite adverse conditions, the speaker finds solace in their memories and in their poetry.

"Which once she foster'd up with care; So seems it in my deep regret,"

The flower symbolizes the enduring nature of their love and creativity, despite their sorrow.

"O my forsaken heart, with thee And this poor flower of poesy Which little cared for fades not yet."

Despite their pain, their creativity and love still endure, symbolized by the flower and their poetry.

"But since it pleased a vanish'd eye, I go to plant it on his tomb,"

They decide to plant the flower on the tomb of their beloved, as it once brought pleasure to their departed loved one.

"That if it can it there may bloom, Or, dying, there at least may die."

They hope the flower will flourish on the tomb, or if it cannot survive, it will at least die there, symbolizing the connection between their love and their loss.


"Fair ship, that from the Italian shore Sailest the placid ocean-plains"

The speaker addresses a ship that carries the remains of their lost loved one, Arthur, from the Italian shore across the calm seas.

"With my lost Arthur's loved remains, Spread thy full wings, and waft him o'er."

They implore the ship to carry Arthur's remains swiftly and gently, like spreading wings, to his mourning family.

"So draw him home to those that mourn In vain;"

The speaker expresses the hope that the ship will bring Arthur back to his grieving loved ones.


"Ruffle thy mirror'd mast, and lead Thro' prosperous floods his holy urn."

They wish for the ship's journey to be smooth and prosperous, guiding Arthur's urn safely to its destination.

"All night no ruder air perplex Thy sliding keel,"

The speaker wishes for calm seas and gentle winds to accompany the ship's voyage, ensuring a peaceful journey.

"Till Phosphor, bright As our pure love, thro' early light Shall glimmer on the dewy decks."

They anticipate the morning light, likening it to their pure love, shining on the ship's decks as a sign of hope and guidance.

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"Sphere all your lights around, above; Sleep, gentle heavens, before the prow;"

They call upon the heavens to surround the ship with their lights and to rest peacefully before its bow.

"Sleep, gentle winds, as he sleeps now, My friend, the brother of my love;"

The speaker wishes for calm and peaceful sleep for both Arthur and the ship, paralleling Arthur's rest with the tranquility of the winds.

"My Arthur, whom I shall not see Till all my widow'd race be run;"

They express the longing to be reunited with Arthur only after their own life's journey is complete.

"Dear as the mother to the son, More than my brothers are to me."

The speaker emphasizes the deep bond and love they shared with Arthur, likening it to the love of a mother for her son and surpassing that of their own siblings.



"I hear the noise about thy keel; I hear the bell struck in the night:"

The speaker hears the sounds of the ship, including the bell ringing in the night, signaling its progress.

"I see the cabin-window bright; I see the sailor at the wheel."

They visualize the ship's activities, including the bright cabin window and the sailor steering the wheel.

"Thou bring'st the sailor to his wife, And travell'd men from foreign lands;"

The ship not only carries Arthur's remains but also brings other travelers and letters to their destinations.

"And letters unto trembling hands; And, thy dark freight, a vanish'd life."

It also carries letters to anxious recipients and, among its cargo, the remains of a life now gone.

"So bring him; we have idle dreams: This look of quiet flatters thus Our home-bred fancies."

The speaker acknowledges their own idle dreams and imaginations, finding comfort in the peaceful appearance of the ship.

"O to us, The fools of habit, sweeter seems To rest beneath the clover sod,"

They reflect on the simple pleasures of rest and peace, preferring the idea of lying under the clover-covered earth than facing the tumultuous sea.

"That takes the sunshine and the rains, Or where the kneeling hamlet drains The chalice of the grapes of God;"

They find solace in the imagery of resting in a place where the earth receives both sunshine and rain, or where a village gathers to enjoy the fruits of nature.

"Than if with thee the roaring wells Should gulf him fathom-deep in brine;"

They contrast the peaceful image of resting beneath the earth with the violent image of being swallowed by the roaring ocean depths.

"And hands so often clasp'd in mine, Should toss with tangle and with shells."

They lament the thought of Arthur's hands, once held in theirs, now being tossed about by the ocean currents among seaweed and shells.



"Calm is the morn without a sound, Calm as to suit a calmer grief,"

The speaker describes the tranquil morning, matching the subdued mood of their grief.

"And only thro' the faded leaf The chestnut pattering to the ground:"

They notice the only sound disrupting the calmness of the morning is the gentle patter of chestnuts falling to the ground.

"Calm and deep peace on this high world, And on these dews that drench the furze,"

The speaker observes the profound peace enveloping the world, from the dew-covered bushes to the delicate gossamer threads shimmering in the sunlight.

"And all the silvery gossamers That twinkle into green and gold:"

They marvel at the intricate beauty of the gossamer threads, sparkling in the sunlight and transitioning from silver to green and gold.


"Calm and still light on yon great plain That sweeps with all its autumn bowers,"

The calm light bathes the vast plain, adorned with autumnal trees and foliage.

"And crowded farms and lessening towers, To mingle with the bounding main:"

The speaker observes the peaceful scene of farms, villages, and distant towers blending harmoniously with the vastness of the ocean.

"Calm and deep peace in this wide air, These leaves that redden to the fall;"

They find tranquility in the autumnal air and the changing colors of the leaves.

"And in my heart, if calm at all, If any calm, a calm despair:"

Despite the external calmness, the speaker's heart is filled with a profound sense of despair.

"Calm on the seas, and silver sleep, And waves that sway themselves in rest,"

They observe the calmness of the seas, with waves gently swaying in a state of peaceful rest.

"And dead calm in that noble breast Which heaves but with the heaving deep."

They imagine the serene calmness within the breast of a noble sailor, whose heart beats in rhythm with the ocean's waves.



"Lo, as a dove when up she springs To bear thro' Heaven a tale of woe,"

The speaker compares themselves to a dove rising into the sky to carry a message of sorrow.

"Some dolorous message knit below The wild pulsation of her wings;"

They carry a message of sorrow hidden beneath the rapid beating of their wings.

"Like her I go; I cannot stay; I leave this mortal ark behind,"

They cannot stay in their current state of despair and leave behind their mortal body to embark on a journey.

"A weight of nerves without a mind, And leave the cliffs, and haste away"

They describe leaving behind their physical body, feeling only the weight of nerves without rational thought.

"O'er ocean-mirrors rounded large, And reach the glow of southern skies,"

They journey over vast ocean expanses, heading towards the radiant skies of the south.

"And see the sails at distance rise, And linger weeping on the marge,"

They observe distant sails rising on the horizon and linger sadly on the shore.

"And saying; `Comes he thus, my friend? Is this the end of all my care?'"

They question the finality of their friend's departure and lament the end of their caring efforts.

"And circle moaning in the air: 'Is this the end? Is this the end?'"

They circle in the air, mourning and questioning the finality of their friend's departure.

"And forward dart again, and play About the prow, and back return"

They dart around the ship's prow and then return to their starting point.

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"To where the body sits, and learn That I have been an hour away."

They return to their physical body and realize they have been away for an hour, experiencing a spiritual journey in that time.


"Tears of the widower, when he sees A late-lost form that sleep reveals,"

The speaker describes the tears shed by a widower when he wakes from sleep and momentarily believes he sees his late spouse beside him.

"And moves his doubtful arms, and feels Her place is empty, fall like these;"

The widower reaches out, hoping to find his spouse beside him, only to realize the emptiness of her absence, leading to tears.

"Which weep a loss for ever new, A void where heart on heart reposed;"

These tears represent the ongoing grief of the widower, mourning the perpetual emptiness left by the loss of their loved one.

"And, where warm hands have prest and closed, Silence, till I be silent too."

They mourn the absence of the warm embrace and touch of their spouse, feeling compelled to remain silent until death reunites them.

"Which weep the comrade of my choice, An awful thought, a life removed,"

The speaker mourns not only the loss of their spouse but also of a close friend, emphasizing the profound impact of death on their life.

"The human-hearted man I loved, A Spirit, not a breathing voice."

They mourn the loss of their friend, recognizing their spirit and character more than their physical presence.

"Come, Time, and teach me, many years, I do not suffer in a dream;"

The speaker calls upon time to help them accept the reality of their grief, hoping to distinguish it from a mere dream.

"For now so strange do these things seem, Mine eyes have leisure for their tears;"

The grief feels surreal, prompting the speaker to shed tears as they grapple with the reality of their loss.

"My fancies time to rise on wing, And glance about the approaching sails,"

The speaker's thoughts wander as they await the arrival of a ship, symbolizing their contemplation of life's transient nature.

"As tho' they brought but merchants' bales, And not the burthen that they bring."

Despite the anticipation of the ship's arrival, the speaker struggles to fully comprehend the weight of the emotional burden it carries.



"If one should bring me this report, That thou hadst touch'd the land to-day,"

The speaker imagines receiving news that a loved one has arrived ashore.

"And I went down unto the quay, And found thee lying in the port;"

They envision going to the harbor and discovering their loved one's arrival.

"And standing, muffled round with woe, Should see thy passengers in rank"

Despite their own grief, the speaker observes the joy of others disembarking from the ship.

"Come stepping lightly down the plank, And beckoning unto those they know;"

They see the passengers joyfully reuniting with their loved ones, highlighting the contrast with their own sorrow.

"And if along with these should come The man I held as half-divine;"

The speaker imagines encountering a revered friend amidst the crowd.

"Should strike a sudden hand in mine, And ask a thousand things of home;"

Their friend warmly greets them and eagerly inquires about their life and experiences.

"And I should tell him all my pain, And how my life had droop'd of late,"

The speaker opens up to their friend, sharing their struggles and recent hardships.

"And he should sorrow o'er my state And marvel what possess'd my brain;"

Their friend expresses sympathy for their suffering and wonders about the cause of their distress.

"And I perceived no touch of change, No hint of death in all his frame,"

Despite their friend's arrival, the speaker detects no sign of mortality or change in their appearance.

"But found him all in all the same, I should not feel it to be strange."

Despite the lack of change, the speaker does not find it strange, suggesting a sense of comfort and familiarity in their friend's presence.


"To-night the winds begin to rise And roar from yonder dropping day:"

The speaker describes the onset of strong winds as night falls.

"The last red leaf is whirl'd away, The rooks are blown about the skies;"

They observe the last remaining autumn leaf being carried away by the wind, and birds flying erratically.

"The forest crack'd, the waters curl'd, The cattle huddled on the lea;"

The speaker notes the sounds of trees cracking in the wind, the turbulent waters, and frightened cattle seeking shelter.

"And wildly dash'd on tower and tree The sunbeam strikes along the world:"

They remark on the sunlight striking fiercely against buildings and trees, accentuating the tumultuous atmosphere.

"And but for fancies, which aver That all thy motions gently pass Athwart a plane of molten glass,"

The speaker acknowledges that their perception of the world as tumultuous is only a product of their imagination.

"I scarce could brook the strain and stir That makes the barren branches loud;"

They admit that without their imagination's reassurance, they would find it difficult to tolerate the noisy agitation of the environment.

"And but for fear it is not so, The wild unrest that lives in woe Would dote and pore on yonder cloud"

They suggest that without the fear that their perception is inaccurate, their sorrow and unrest would consume them as they fixate on a distant cloud.

"That rises upward always higher, And onward drags a labouring breast,"

They describe a cloud ascending in the sky, likening it to a struggling creature.

"And topples round the dreary west, A looming bastion fringed with fire."

The cloud is portrayed as a formidable structure illuminated by the setting sun.


10. "What words are these have falle'n from me? Can calm despair and wild unrest Be tenants of a single breast," - The speaker questions the coexistence of contradictory emotions like calm despair and wild unrest within themselves.

"Or sorrow such a changeling be? Or cloth she only seem to take The touch of change in calm or storm;"

They ponder whether sorrow can change its nature based on circumstances or if it only appears to do so.

"But knows no more of transient form In her deep self, than some dead lake"

The speaker wonders if sorrow remains unchanged at its core, like a stagnant lake.

"That holds the shadow of a lark Hung in the shadow of a heaven?"

They metaphorically compare sorrow to a lake reflecting the shadow of a lark beneath the shadow of the sky.

"Or has the shock, so harshly given, Confused me like the unhappy bark"

They consider if a traumatic event has left them disoriented, like a ship crashing against rocks.


"That strikes by night a craggy shelf, And staggers blindly ere she sink?"

They further liken themselves to a ship battered by rocks and left sinking in confusion.

"And stunn'd me from my power to think And all my knowledge of myself;"

The speaker reflects on how the shock has left them unable to think clearly or understand themselves.

"And made me that delirious man Whose fancy fuses old and new,"

They describe feeling delirious, with their thoughts blending past and present.

"And flashes into false and true, And mingles all without a plan?"

They express how their thoughts alternate between truth and falsehood, mingling without coherence or purpose.


"Thou comest, much wept for: such a breeze Compell'd thy canvas, and my prayer"

The speaker addresses a ship, expressing relief at its arrival and attributing its journey to the force of their prayers.

"Was as the whisper of an air To breathe thee over lonely seas."

They compare their prayers to a gentle breeze guiding the ship across lonely seas.

"For I in spirit saw thee move Thro' circles of the bounding sky,"

The speaker imagines the ship's journey through the sky, visualizing its progress.

"Week after week: the days go by: Come quick, thou bringest all I love."

They eagerly anticipate the ship's arrival, longing for the return of loved ones.

"Henceforth, wherever thou may'st roam, My blessing, like a line of light,"

The speaker extends their blessing to the ship, wishing for its safety wherever it may travel.

"Is on the waters day and night, And like a beacon guards thee home."

They envision their blessing as a guiding light, protecting the ship on its journey home.

"So may whatever tempest mars Mid-ocean, spare thee, sacred bark;"

They pray that the ship be spared from storms while crossing the ocean.

"And balmy drops in summer dark Slide from the bosom of the stars."

They hope for gentle summer rains to comfort the ship, imagining them as soothing drops falling from the stars.

"So kind an office hath been done, Such precious relics brought by thee;"

The speaker appreciates the ship's role in bringing valuable goods or loved ones.

"The dust of him I shall not see Till all my widow'd race be run."

They mention the dust of someone they will not see until the end of their life, suggesting a longing for reunion after death.


11. "'Tis well; 'tis something; we may stand Where he in English earth is laid," - The speaker reflects on the significance of being able to stand at the grave of someone buried in English soil.

"And from his ashes may be made The violet of his native land."

They suggest that from the person's ashes, something beautiful, like a violet, may emerge, symbolizing rebirth and renewal.

"'Tis little; but it looks in truth As if the quiet bones were blest"

Although it may seem insignificant, they believe that the person's resting place among familiar names is blessed.

"Among familiar names to rest And in the places of his youth."

They find comfort in the person's burial among familiar surroundings from their youth.

"Come then, pure hands, and bear the head That sleeps or wears the mask of sleep,"

The speaker calls for someone to handle the deceased's head, whether they are peacefully sleeping or wearing the mask of death.

"And come, whatever loves to weep, And hear the ritual of the dead."

They invite mourners to come and participate in the funeral rites for the deceased.

"Ah yet, ev'n yet, if this might be, I, falling on his faithful heart,"

The speaker expresses a longing to fall upon the deceased's faithful heart, even though they know it's impossible.

"Would breathing thro' his lips impart The life that almost dies in me;"

They wish to exchange breath with the deceased, symbolizing a transfer of life force and vitality.

"That dies not, but endures with pain, And slowly forms the firmer mind,"

They believe that despite enduring pain, the life force continues and strengthens the mind.

"Treasuring the look it cannot find, The words that are not heard again."

They cherish memories of the deceased, holding onto their image and the words they once spoke.


"The Danube to the Severn gave The darken'd heart that beat no more;"

The speaker describes how the deceased's heart, darkened by death, was transported from the Danube to the Severn river.

"They laid him by the pleasant shore, And in the hearing of the wave."

The deceased was buried by the pleasant shores of the Severn river, where the sound of the waves can be heard.

"There twice a day the Severn fills; The salt sea-water passes by, And hushes half the babbling Wye, And makes a silence in the hills."

The Severn river's tides fill twice a day, calming the nearby Wye river and creating a sense of silence in the hills.


"The Wye is hush'd nor moved along, And hush'd my deepest grief of all,"

The quietness of the Wye river mirrors the speaker's profound grief.

"When fill'd with tears that cannot fall, I brim with sorrow drowning song."

The speaker's grief is so intense that they are filled with tears that cannot be shed, drowning their ability to express themselves through song.

"The tide flows down, the wave again Is vocal in its wooded walls;"

The ebb and flow of the tide coincide with the speaker's emotional state, where they find solace in nature's rhythm.

"My deeper anguish also falls, And I can speak a little then."

The speaker finds that their deeper anguish lessens when the river becomes vocal again, allowing them to express their feelings somewhat.


"The lesser griefs that may be said, That breathe a thousand tender vows,"

The speaker acknowledges the lesser, more easily expressed griefs that people may talk about.

"Are but as servants in a house Where lies the master newly dead;"

These lesser griefs are like servants compared to the overwhelming grief of losing a loved one.

"My lighter moods are like to these, That out of words a comfort win;"

The speaker's lighter moods find some comfort in expressing themselves through words.

"But there are other griefs within, And tears that at their fountain freeze;"

However, there are deeper griefs and tears that remain unexpressed and frozen at their source.

"For by the hearth the children sit Cold in that atmosphere of Death,"

The speaker observes the children sitting by the hearth, affected by the solemn atmosphere of death.

"And scarce endure to draw the breath, Or like to noiseless phantoms flit;"

The children struggle to breathe in the presence of death or move silently like phantoms.

"But open converse is there none, So much the vital spirits sink"

Despite their presence, there is no open conversation, as everyone is deeply affected by grief.

"To see the vacant chair, and think, 'How good! how kind! and he is gone.'"

The sight of the empty chair reminds them of the departed loved one's goodness and kindness.


"I sing to him that rests below, And, since the grasses round me wave," - The speaker sings to the deceased, using the grass from the grave as pipes to accompany their song.

"I take the grasses of the grave, And make them pipes whereon to blow."

They create musical instruments from the grass on the grave to accompany their song.

"The traveller hears me now and then, And sometimes harshly will he speak:"

Passersby occasionally hear the speaker's song, and some may criticize it harshly.

"`This fellow would make weakness weak, And melt the waxen hearts of men.'"

Critics accuse the speaker of exaggerating grief and being overly sentimental.

"Another answers, `Let him be, He loves to make parade of pain"

Others suggest leaving the speaker alone, as they believe the speaker enjoys displaying their pain for attention.

"`That with his piping he may gain The praise that comes to constancy.'"

Some believe the speaker sings their sorrow for praise and recognition of their steadfastness.

"A third is wroth: `Is this an hour For private sorrow's barren song,"

Another critic questions the appropriateness of the speaker's private grief song during a time when public affairs demand attention.

"`When more and more the people throng The chairs and thrones of civil power?'"

They wonder why the speaker mourns privately when public matters, such as governance, are becoming increasingly important.

"Behold, ye speak an idle thing: Ye never knew the sacred dust:"

The speaker dismisses the critics, asserting that they don't understand the sacredness of the deceased.

"`I do but sing because I must, And pipe but as the linnets sing:'"

The speaker defends their song, stating that they sing out of necessity, much like birds sing instinctively.

"And one is glad; her note is gay, For now her little ones have ranged;"

They observe a bird singing joyfully because her offspring have grown and ventured out.

"And one is sad; her note is changed, Because her brood is stol'n away."

Another bird sings sorrowfully because her young have been taken away, symbolizing the speaker's own grief.


"The path by which we twain did go, Which led by tracts that pleased us well,"

The speaker reminisces about the path they and their companion once walked together, enjoying its pleasant surroundings.

"Thro' four sweet years arose and fell, From flower to flower, from snow to snow:"

They recall how they traversed this path for four years, experiencing its beauty throughout the changing seasons.

"And we with singing cheer'd the way, And, crown'd with all the season lent,"

They remember how they sang joyfully as they journeyed along the path, embracing each season's offerings.

"From April on to April went, And glad at heart from May to May:"

Their journey spanned from April to April, and they found happiness in each passing May.

"But where the path we walk'd began To slant the fifth autumnal slope,"

However, as they reached the fifth autumn season on their path, they encountered a change.

"As we descended following Hope, There sat the Shadow fear'd of man;"

They encountered a figurative shadow, symbolizing fear or darkness, as they descended with hope, which disrupted their companionship.

"Who broke our fair companionship, And spread his mantle dark and cold,"

This shadow disrupted their once beautiful companionship, enveloping it in darkness and coldness.

"And wrapt thee formless in the fold, And dull'd the murmur on thy lip,"

It obscured their companion's form and silenced their once lively voice.

"And bore thee where I could not see Nor follow, tho' I walk in haste,"

The shadow took their companion away from the speaker's sight, even though they hurried to follow.

"And think, that somewhere in the waste The Shadow sits and waits for me."

The speaker now believes that the shadow, representing loss or death, waits for them somewhere in the desolate unknown.


"Now, sometimes in my sorrow shut, Or breaking into song by fits," - The speaker alternates between being shut in by sorrow and breaking into song sporadically.

"Alone, alone, to where he sits, The Shadow cloak'd from head to foot,"

They find themselves alone, approaching the shadow, who remains hidden from head to foot.

"Who keeps the keys of all the creeds, I wander, often falling lame,"

The shadow holds authority over various beliefs, and the speaker, often feeling spiritually or emotionally drained, wanders aimlessly.

"And looking back to whence I came, Or on to where the pathway leads;"

They reflect on their past and uncertain future, contemplating the direction of their journey.


"And crying, How changed from where it ran Thro' lands where not a leaf was dumb;"

They lament the changes from their past experiences, remembering a time when nature seemed to speak to them.

"But all the lavish hills would hum The murmur of a happy Pan:"

They recall how the hills once echoed with the joyful sounds of nature, personifying happiness as Pan, the god of the wild.

"When each by turns was guide to each, And Fancy light from Fancy caught,"

They reminisce about how they and their companion exchanged guidance and inspiration, sparking each other's imagination.

"And Thought leapt out to wed with Thought Ere Thought could wed itself with Speech;"

Ideas flowed freely between them, with thoughts intermingling before they could even be articulated.

"And all we met was fair and good, And all was good that Time could bring,"

They remember a time when everything they encountered was positive and any changes brought by time were welcomed.

"And all the secret of the Spring Moved in the chambers of the blood;"

They recall feeling intimately connected to the mysteries of life, especially the rejuvenation symbolized by spring.

"And many an old philosophy On Argive heights divinely sang,"

They remember how they were inspired by ancient philosophical teachings while in elevated places like Argive heights.

"And round us all the thicket rang To many a flute of Arcady."

They recall the enchanting music of flutes playing in Arcady, a symbol of pastoral bliss and harmony with nature.


"And was the day of my delight As pure and perfect as I say?"

The speaker questions whether their past happiness was truly as idyllic as they remember.

"The very source and fount of Day Is dash'd with wandering isles of night."

They reflect on the imperfections of life, likening even the source of light to being marred by patches of darkness.

"If all was good and fair we met, This earth had been the Paradise"

They contemplate whether their encounters with goodness and fairness were enough to make Earth a paradise.

"It never look'd to human eyes Since our first Sun arose and set."

They doubt whether the Earth has ever appeared as a paradise to human eyes, despite moments of happiness.

"And is it that the haze of grief Makes former gladness loom so great?"

They wonder if their current sorrow magnifies past happiness.

"The lowness of the present state, That sets the past in this relief?"

They consider if their dissatisfaction with the present exaggerates the positives of the past.

"Or that the past will always win A glory from its being far;"

They ponder whether distance from the past lends it a greater sense of glory.

"And orb into the perfect star We saw not, when we moved therein?"

They question if hindsight idealizes the past, making it seem more perfect than it was.


 "I know that this was Life,—the track Whereon with equal feet we fared;"

They acknowledge that their past experiences were indeed life, where they journeyed together on an even path.

"And then, as now, the day prepared The daily burden for the back."

They recognize that life then, like now, involved facing daily challenges.

"But this it was that made me move As light as carrier-birds in air;"

They attribute their ability to move forward lightly to the love they shared.

"I loved the weight I had to bear, Because it needed help of Love:"

They found purpose and meaning in carrying burdens together, as it required the support of their love.

"Nor could I weary, heart or limb, When mighty Love would cleave in twain"

Their love gave them strength to endure any pain, as it was shared between them.

"The lading of a single pain, And part it, giving half to him."

Love allowed them to share their burdens, making them lighter to bear.


"Still onward winds the dreary way; I with it; for I long to prove" - Despite the challenges, the speaker is determined to continue forward on their journey.

"No lapse of moons can canker Love, Whatever fickle tongues may say."

They believe that time cannot erode true love, despite what others may claim.

"And if that eye which watches guilt And goodness, and hath power to see"

They speculate about a divine eye that observes both guilt and goodness.

"Within the green the moulder'd tree, And towers fall'n as soon as built—"

This eye sees decay and destruction in nature and human constructions.

"Oh, if indeed that eye foresee Or see (in Him is no before)"

They contemplate whether this divine eye can foresee the future or exists outside of time.


"In more of life true life no more And Love the indifference to be,"

They wonder if true life ends in death and if love ultimately becomes indifference.

"Then might I find, ere yet the morn Breaks hither over Indian seas,"

They express a desire to find relief from their suffering before the new day dawns.

"That Shadow waiting with the keys, To shroud me from my proper scorn."

They hope that death, symbolized by the shadow, will shield them from self-contempt.


"I envy not in any moods The captive void of noble rage," - The speaker doesn't envy those who lack passionate feelings, preferring to experience life fully, even with its pains.

"The linnet born within the cage, That never knew the summer woods:"

They don't envy creatures that have never experienced freedom or the beauty of nature.

"I envy not the beast that takes His license in the field of time,"

They also don't envy animals that act without moral conscience, devoid of ethical considerations.

"Unfetter'd by the sense of crime, To whom a conscience never wakes;"

Such creatures live without guilt or remorse, but the speaker finds no envy in this state.

"Nor, what may count itself as blest, The heart that never plighted troth"

They don't envy those who have never experienced the deep emotional connection of committed love.

"But stagnates in the weeds of sloth; Nor any want-begotten rest."

Even a life of leisure and ease, without ambition or striving, holds no appeal for the speaker.

"I hold it true, whate'er befall; I feel it, when I sorrow most;"

Despite their sorrow, they hold onto the belief that love, even if lost, is still valuable.

"'Tis better to have loved and lost Than never to have loved at all."

They affirm the famous adage, expressing the sentiment that the experience of love, despite its pain, enriches life more than never having loved at all.

In Memoriam Poem Themes

Love and Loss: The poem grapples with the profound emotions associated with love and loss, especially the loss of a beloved friend. It delves into the depth of grief and the enduring impact of love even after death.

Memory and Nostalgia: Tennyson reflects on past experiences with the deceased friend, reminiscing about the joyful moments they shared together. Memory serves as a source of both comfort and pain, evoking feelings of nostalgia for happier times.

Nature and Transience: The natural world features prominently in the poem, serving as a backdrop for the speaker's reflections on life and mortality. Tennyson contemplates the cyclical nature of existence, where life and death are intertwined, and draws parallels between the changing seasons and the passage of time.

Faith and Doubt: Throughout the poem, there is a tension between faith and doubt, as the speaker wrestles with existential questions about the nature of God, the afterlife, and the purpose of human existence. This theme reflects Tennyson's own spiritual struggles and search for meaning in the face of loss.

Acceptance and Resilience: Despite the overwhelming grief, there are moments of acceptance and resilience, as the speaker grapples with their loss and seeks solace in the belief that love endures beyond death. The poem ultimately conveys a message of hope and perseverance in the face of adversity.

Identity and Self-Reflection: The speaker undergoes a process of self-reflection and introspection as they navigate the stages of grief. They confront their own mortality, question the meaning of life, and ponder the nature of human existence, leading to a deeper understanding of themselves and their place in the world.


"In Memoriam A.H.H." encapsulates the timeless journey of grief, love, and spiritual introspection, masterfully crafted by Alfred Lord Tennyson. 

In Memoriam Poem by Alfred Tennyson summary line by line-Through its profound exploration of loss and longing, the poem not only pays homage to Tennyson's dear friend Arthur Henry Hallam but also offers readers a profound meditation on the human condition.


1. What inspired Tennyson to write "In Memoriam A.H.H."?

Tennyson wrote this elegy in memory of his close friend Arthur Henry Hallam, whose untimely death deeply impacted him. Hallam's passing prompted Tennyson to grapple with themes of mortality, faith, and the enduring bonds of friendship.

2. How does Tennyson navigate grief in the poem?

Throughout "In Memoriam," Tennyson navigates grief by engaging in introspective reflection, philosophical inquiry, and spiritual contemplation. He channels his emotions into lyrical verse, ultimately finding solace and acceptance amidst his sorrow.

3. What are some key themes explored in "In Memoriam A.H.H."?

The poem delves into various themes, including love, loss, faith, doubt, and the search for meaning in the face of mortality. Tennyson's exploration of these universal themes resonates with readers across generations.

4. How does "In Memoriam" contribute to Tennyson's literary legacy?

"In Memoriam A.H.H." is considered one of Tennyson's greatest achievements, showcasing his poetic prowess and profound insight into the human experience. Its enduring relevance and emotional depth solidify its place as a timeless masterpiece.




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