In Memoriam A.H.H.
Oh yet we trust that somehow good
Will be the final goal of ill,
To pangs of nature, sins of will,
Defects of doubt, and taints of blood;
That nothing walks with aimless feet;
That not one life shall be destroyed,
Or cast as rubbish to the void,
When God hath made the pile complete;
That not a worm is cloven in vain;
That not a moth with vain desire
Is shrivelled in a fruitless fire,
Or but subserves another’s gain.
Behold, we know not anything;
I can but trust that good shall fall
At last—far off—at last, to all,
And every winter change to spring.
So runs my dream: but what am I?
An infant crying in the night:
An infant crying for the light:
And with no language but a cry.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1809 – 1892, is one of the greatest and persistently most popular poets of the English language. Long-term Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom (his appointment to this capacity succeeded William Wordsworth’s tenure); accepting a baronetcy, took his seat in the House of Lords in 1884. “In Memoriam A.H.H.” is a long poem, composed over several years. Including the prologue and epilogue, it comprises 133 divisions called cantos (Italian for “songs”); it’s a meditation on love and loss, sorrow and hope. Its original title was “The Way of the Soul”. As to his religious beliefs, Tennyson admitted that they were not an orthodox / traditionalist Christianity, they “defied convention, leaning towards agnosticism and pandeism”.
Given a century’s perspective, Victorian poetry can be considered to be “essentially a continuation of Romantic poetry into the third and fourth generations” (Victorian Prose and Poetry, 1973; editors Lionel Trilling and Harold Bloom; this volume is part of the series “The Oxford Anthology of English Literature”).
The phrase in memoriam is Latin for “in memory of / to the memory of / as a memorial to”