Directions: (1) Links on single words take the reader to documents containing lists
of those and related words in other sections of the poem. (2) Links to phrases
contain explanatory commentary, which, depending upon the length of the section,
appears in the left-hand column or below the poem (3) Longer commentaries and
discussion questions appear as separate linked documents.

I held it truth, with him who sings
      To one clear harp in divers tones,
      That men may rise on stepping-stones
Of their dead selves to higher things.

But who shall so forecast the years
      And find in loss a gain to match?
      Or reach a hand thro' time to catch
The far-off interest of tears?

Let Love clasp Grief lest both be drown'd,
      Let darkness keep her raven gloss:
      Ah, sweeter to be drunk with loss,
To dance with death, to beat the ground,

Than that the victor Hours should scorn
      The long result of love, and boast,
      "Behold the man that loved and lost,
But all he was is overworn."

In Memoriam I and IV: Poems in Dialogue

Peltason writes that the "mourner's self-analysis is also a poet's self-criticism." The interaction between sections 1 and 4 offers an example of such self-criticism. In section 1 the poet firmly announces his intention to mourn his lost love; indeed, the poet regards grieving as a way of preserving his love for the departed against the inroads of Time. Section 1, then, is the poet's justification of everlasting mourning. In section 4 the poet is in a state of stupefied sadness and soporific passivity as he murmurs "To Sleep I give my powers away; / My will is bondsman to the dark"--a night in the life of a perpetual mourner. But this mood does not last. The speaker starts the process of breaking out of his lethargy by creating "voices" within himself so that dialogue--and with it, critical self-analysis--may take place. By the fourth and last stanza the poet's will asserts itself once more and "cries, / Thou shalt not be the fool of loss." Section 4 answers section 1, but the mood of section 1 will occur again. [Helen H. Kim, EL 264, Brown University, 1988]

Last modified 11 February 2010