In Memoriam, Alfred Lord Tennyson's brutally honest epic poem concerning how the passing of a loved one effects those left behind, leads the reader through a thorough examination of how one can comprehend and eventually come to terms with death. Tennyson's skillful and repetitive use of vivid imagery such as wind and barren wastelands gives the reader a powerful idea of the pain experienced when attempting to understand loss. This poem also helps the reader to appreciate how this pain can eventually lead one to a place of understanding and eventual acceptance of the natural process of life and how this process is connected to an awareness of one's spiritual self. One passage that I found particularly poignant relates how difficult the process of grieving is, even if a loved one's death has been accepted. Tennyson deftly expresses the fact that even though one might believe that the deceased person has found release in death, this understanding does not make the loss any easier for those that have to come to terms with such an experience.
We ceased: a gentler feeling crept Upon us: surely rest is meet: "They rest" we said, "their sleep is sweet," And silence follow'd, and we wept.
Our voices took a higher range; Once more we sang: “They do not die Nor lose their mortal sympathy, Nor change to us, although they change."
1. If a contemporary artist had painted his or her interpretation of this poem, what images do you think that artist might have chosen to express the poem?
2. Would such an artistic representation be any different if painted by a modern artist with a more modern interpretation of the poem?3. Why is it that Tennyson often refers to himself as being Arthur Hallam's "widow?" What can readers infer about the depth of their friendship through this term?
Last modified 16 September 2003