'A Critical Analysis of Tennyson's In Memoriam A H Essay

This essay has a total of 4883 words and 24 pages.

'A Critical Analysis of Tennyson's In Memoriam A H H '



A Critical Analysis of Tension’s In Memorial A. H. H.

During the Victorian Period, long held and comfortable religious
beliefs fell under great scrutiny. An early blow to these beliefs came
from the Utilitarian, followers of Jeremy Bantam, in the form of a test
by reason of many of the long-standing institutions of England,
including the church. When seen through the eyes of reason, religion
became “merely an outmoded superstition” (Ford & Christ 896). If this
were not enough for the faithful to contend with, the torch of doubt was
soon passed to the scientists. Geologists were publishing the results
of their studies which concluded that the Earth was far older than the
biblical accounts would have it (Ford & Christ 897). Astronomers were
extending humanity’s knowledge of stellar distances, and Natural
Historians such as Charles Darwin were swiftly building theories of
evolution that defied the Old Testament version of creation (Ford &
Christ 897). God seemed to be dissolving before a panicked England’s
very eyes, replaced by the vision of a cold, mechanistic universe that
cared little for our existence.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson was painfully aware of the implications of
such a universe, and he struggled with his own doubts about the
existence of God. We glimpse much of his struggles in the poem In
Memorial A. H. H., written in memory of his deceased friend, Arthur
Hallam. The poem seemed to be cathartic for Tennyson, for through its
writing he not only found an outlet for his grief over Hallam’s death,
but also managed to regain the faith which seemed at times to have
abandoned him. Tennyson regained and firmly reestablished his faith
through the formation of the idea that God is reconciled with the
mechanistic universe through a divine plan of evolution, with Hallam as
the potential link to a greater race of humans yet to come.
In the first of many lyric units, Tennyson’s faith in God and
Jesus seems strong. He speaks of “Believing where we cannot prove” (l.
4), and is sure that God “wilt not leave us in the dust” (l. 9). The
increasing threat posed to religion by science does not worry Tension
here, as he believes that our increasing knowledge of the universe can
be reconciled with faith, saying:

“Let knowledge grow from more to more,
But more of reverence in us dwell;
That mind and soul, according well,
May make one music as before” (1. 25-28).

He does anticipate doubt, though, as he asks in advance for God’s
forgiveness for the “Confusions of a wasted youth” (l. 42). Tennyson
here foresees the difficulties inherent in reconciling God with the cold
universe slowly emerging for the notes of scientists.
In order to deal with the tasks set before him, Tennyson must
first boldly face the possibility of a world without God. In stanza
number three, Sorrow, personified as a woman, whispers these
disconcerting possibilities to a grief-ridden Tennyson, saying, “And all
the phantom, Nature, stands-... / A hollow form with empty hands” (3.9,
12). He questions whether he should “embrace” or “crush” Sorrow with
all her uncomfortable suggestions.
Tennyson goes on to face an even worse possibility than a lonely
universe, that being the possibility of an existence without meaning.
In this view, human life is not eternal, and everything returns to dust
forever. God is like “some wild poet, when he works / Without a
conscience or an aim” (34.7-8). Why even consider such a God, Tennyson
asks, and why not end life all the sooner if this vision of God is true
(34.9-12)? He answers himself in the next poem, however, as he banishes
such a possibility on the evidence that love could never exist in such a
reality. What we consider to be love would actually be only be a
two-dimensional sense of “fellowship,” such as animals must feel, out of
boredom or crude sensuality (35.21-24)
The many poems which follow fluctuate between faith and doubt. In

poem fifty-four Tennyson consoles himself with the thought:

“That nothing walks with aimless feet;
That not one life shall be destroyed,
Or cast as rubbish to the void,
When God hat made the pile complete” (54.5-9).
Line nine of poem fifty-four definitely assumes a plan for God’s
creation, humanity, and an end goal. In the next two poems, however, he
returns to the doubts which a scientific reading of nature inspires, and
reminds himself that though nature is “So careful of the type” (55.7),
she is yet “careless of the single life” (55.8). This notion of
survival of the fittest is extremely disconcerting to Tennyson. He
notices in poem fifty-six the even more alarming fact that many species
have passed into oblivion, and that humans could very well follow in
their footsteps. This is the mechanistic “Nature, red in tooth and
claw,” (56.15) whose existence seemed beyond a care of human lives and
human needs. No longer were men God’s chosen and beloved, but, on the
contrary, they seemed no more noble than the countless scores of other
life which had roamed the planet and passed into extinction. Tennyson
writes:
“O life as futile, then as frail!
O for thy voice to soothe and bless!
What hope of answer, or redress?
Behind the veil, behind the veil” (56.25-28).
He feels, here, all too well the possibility of our own cosmic
insignificance.
The one hope that remains for Tennyson lives in the thought that
evolution might actually be God’s divine plan for humanity. If we have,
in fact, developed to our present state from a lower form, then who is
to say that development has ceased? Might we not be evolving ever
closer to God’s image and divinity itself, leaving behind the
“Satyr-shape” (35.22) and ape-like visage of our ancestors? The fact
that we love, as Tennyson mentioned before, separates us from animals.
To support this idea, Tennyson delves into his relationship with Arthur
Hallam, a figure linking humanity’s present condition to the superior
race yet to come. In poem sixty-four, Tennyson speaks of Hallam,
describing him with the words:
“And moving up from high to higher,
Becomes on Fortune’s crowning slope
The pillar of a people’s hope,
The center of a world’s desire” (64.13-16).
In subsequent sections, he speaks of the divinity present in Hallam,
seeming to compare him at times even to Jesus, as in poem eighty-four,
where he writes, “I see thee sitting crowned with good” (84.5), and,
later, in unit eighty-seven, “...we saw / The God within him light his
face, / And seem to lift the form, and glow / In azure orbits
heavenly-wise’ (87.35-37). Hallam, Tennyson suggests, would have been a
link not only between the present race and that which is to come, but
also between a world in turmoil and the God who will restore it to
peace. This notion of the division between chaotic nature and an
ordered divinity is metaphorically expressed through images of the
spirit leaving the body (47.6-7), the body, of course, being the
physical entity prone to sickness and weariness, and the spirit as the
transcendent aspect which shall someday be reunited with those in Heaven
(47.9-16).
He speaks of the coming of the “thousand years of peace” (106.28),
presumably when the higher race is realized and all institutions have
been reformed for the “common love of good” (106.24). It is not yet
time, though, for this race to find fruition. He speaks of Hallam as
“The herald of a higher race” (118.14), suggesting that his friend was
merely a glimpse of what is yet to come. Humanity must yet “Move
upward, working out the beast, And let the ape and tiger die”
(118.27-28). In other words, a nature now brutal and cold, careless of
life, will someday become, “High nature amorous of the good”
(109.10-11). These words suggest a slow process, not to be accomplished
in the life of merely one man, no matter how great he may be. Tennyson
seems comforted by the contemplation of the golden age to come, though,
saying, “And all is well, though faith and form / Be sundered in the
night of fear” (127.1-2). Through his contemplation, Tennyson seems to
have renewed his faith that nature has not been abandoned by God, though
science would have us believe it so.
Finally, after addressing these doubts raised by science, Tennyson
turns his sights to the Utilitarian attack on religion. In poem 124, he
explains that one cannot come to God through reason, but must fell
divinity. He writes:
“I found Him not in world or sun,
Or eagle’s wing, or insect’s eye,
Nor through the questions men may try,
The petty cobwebs we have spun” (124.4-7).
Instead, Tennyson rediscovers his faith through the emotion, saying “I
have felt” (124.16). This statement harkens back to the passages in
which Tennyson speaks of love as the convincing factor that we are not
alone, for without God, love would be an excessive and unnecessary
dimension, and thus would have no reason to exist at all in a
mechanistic universe.. His love for Hallam, and the hope that they will
someday meet again, is thus the tie which holds Tennyson to his faith.
Through Hallam, whom Tennyson says, “O’erlook’st the tumult for afar”
(127.19), he knows “all is well” (127.20).
With the epilogue, the private, intellectual wars of In Memoriam
conclude peacefully. Tennyson describes the wedding day of his sister
and suggests that the child resulting from the union will be yet “a
closer link / Betwixt us and the crowning race...No longer half-akin to
brute” (127-28, 133). He reminds us yet again that Hallum “Appear[ed]
ere the times were ripe” (139), and thus merely anticipated that
“far-off divine event, / To which the whole creation moves” (143-44).






Works Cited

Ford, George H. and Carol T. Christ. “The Victorian Age”. The Norton
Anthology of English Literature. Ed. M. H. Abrams. New York:
W. W. Norton and Co., 1993. (pps. 891-910).

Tennyson, Alfred, Lord. In Memoriam A. H. H.. Ed. M. H. Abrams. New
York: W. W. Norton and Co., 1993. (pps. 1084-1133).












A Critical Analysis of Tension’s In Memorial A. H. H.

During the Victorian Period, long held and comfortable religious
beliefs fell under great scrutiny. An early blow to these beliefs came
from the Utilitarian, followers of Jeremy Bantam, in the form of a test
by reason of many of the long-standing institutions of England,
including the church. When seen through the eyes of reason, religion
became “merely an outmoded superstition” (Ford & Christ 896). If this
were not enough for the faithful to contend with, the torch of doubt was
soon passed to the scientists. Geologists were publishing the results
of their studies which concluded that the Earth was far older than the
biblical accounts would have it (Ford & Christ 897). Astronomers were
extending humanity’s knowledge of stellar distances, and Natural
Historians such as Charles Darwin were swiftly building theories of
evolution that defied the Old Testament version of creation (Ford &
Christ 897). God seemed to be dissolving before a panicked England’s
very eyes, replaced by the vision of a cold, mechanistic universe that
cared little for our existence.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson was painfully aware of the implications of
such a universe, and he struggled with his own doubts about the
existence of God. We glimpse much of his struggles in the poem In
Memorial A. H. H., written in memory of his deceased friend, Arthur
Hallam. The poem seemed to be cathartic for Tennyson, for through its
writing he not only found an outlet for his grief over Hallam’s death,
but also managed to regain the faith which seemed at times to have
abandoned him. Tennyson regained and firmly reestablished his faith
through the formation of the idea that God is reconciled with the
mechanistic universe through a divine plan of evolution, with Hallam as
the potential link to a greater race of humans yet to come.
In the first of many lyric units, Tennyson’s faith in God and
Jesus seems strong. He speaks of “Believing where we cannot prove” (l.
4), and is sure that God “wilt not leave us in the dust” (l. 9). The
increasing threat posed to religion by science does not worry Tension
here, as he believes that our increasing knowledge of the universe can
be reconciled with faith, saying:

“Let knowledge grow from more to more,
But more of reverence in us dwell;
That mind and soul, according well,
May make one music as before” (1. 25-28).

He does anticipate doubt, though, as he asks in advance for God’s
forgiveness for the “Confusions of a wasted youth” (l. 42). Tennyson
here foresees the difficulties inherent in reconciling God with the cold
universe slowly emerging for the notes of scientists.
In order to deal with the tasks set before him, Tennyson must
first boldly face the possibility of a world without God. In stanza
number three, Sorrow, personified as a woman, whispers these
disconcerting possibilities to a grief-ridden Tennyson, saying, “And all
the phantom, Nature, stands-... / A hollow form with empty hands” (3.9,
12). He questions whether he should “embrace” or “crush” Sorrow with
all her uncomfortable suggestions.
Tennyson goes on to face an even worse possibility than a lonely
universe, that being the possibility of an existence without meaning.
In this view, human life is not eternal, and everything returns to dust
forever. God is like “some wild poet, when he works / Without a
conscience or an aim” (34.7-8). Why even consider such a God, Tennyson
asks, and why not end life all the sooner if this vision of God is true
(34.9-12)? He answers himself in the next poem, however, as he banishes
such a possibility on the evidence that love could never exist in such a
reality. What we consider to be love would actually be only be a
two-dimensional sense of “fellowship,” such as animals must feel, out of
boredom or crude sensuality (35.21-24)
The many poems which follow fluctuate between faith and doubt. In

poem fifty-four Tennyson consoles himself with the thought:

“That nothing walks with aimless feet;
That not one life shall be destroyed,
Or cast as rubbish to the void,
When God hat made the pile complete” (54.5-9).
Line nine of poem fifty-four definitely assumes a plan for God’s
creation, humanity, and an end goal. In the next two poems, however, he
returns to the doubts which a scientific reading of nature inspires, and
reminds himself that though nature is “So careful of the type” (55.7),
Continues for 12 more pages >>




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