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Tennyson Considers Desire in In Memoriam A.H.H

Uploaded by tmjsnbrd95 on Oct 27, 2011

This essay considers Tennyson’s poem In Memoriam A.H.H. and what it says about desire.

I Introduction

Alfred Lord Tennyson is generally considered the “embodiment” of the Victorian age, both to his contemporaries and to modern readers. Although he lived in a world that was rapidly changing, his sympathies were with the countryside, and it is for his beautiful landscapes that he is most widely remembered.
He was an intelligent and passionate man, but he seems to have expressed that passion in poetry more easily than in life:
“Hallam's death nearly crushed him, but it also provided the stimulus for a great outburst of some of the finest poems he ever wrote, many of them connected overtly or implicitly with the loss of his friend. "Ulysses," "Morte d'Arthur," "Tithonus," "Tiresias," "Break, break, break," and "Oh! that 'twere possible" all owe their inception to the passion of grief he felt but carefully hid from his intimates.” (“Alfred Tennyson”, PG).

Alfred Henry Hallam was Tennyson’s dearest friend, and his death was the sad inspiration for one of Tennyson’s greatest works, “In Memoriam.” We’ll turn to a stanza of that poem to further examine Tennyson’s expression of desire.

II Discussion

“In Memoriam” is a tremendous work, nearly 3,000 lines long. It is sometimes joyous, sometimes despairing, as are the emotions of people who are coming to terms with the death of a loved one. One stanza in particular (CXXIX) speaks of Tennyson’s desire: “Dear friend, far off, my lost desire, / So far, so near in woe and weal; / O loved the most, when most I feel / There is a lower and a higher; // Known and unknown; human, divine; / Sweet human hand and lips and eye; / Dear heavenly friend that canst not die, / Mine, mine, for ever, ever mine; // Strange friend, past, present, and to be; / Loved deeplier, darklier understood; / Behold, I dream a dream of good, / And mingle all the world with thee.” (Tennyson, PG). (I’m transcribing it in this format to give us some space to talk about it.)
The first line talks about Tennyson’s “lost desire.” This of course refers to his friend, but modern readers sometimes interpret it to mean that the two men were lovers. However, scholars and historians say that there was no such relationship; and in fact it was the...

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Uploaded by:   tmjsnbrd95

Date:   10/27/2011

Category:   Literature

Length:   4 pages (932 words)

Views:   1620

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