Tennyson uses dreams and visions all through In Memoriam. I was particularly struck by the small cycle formed by poems 67 – 71. In them, the narrator begins to come to terms with his friend's death by creating a new set of experiences and relations with his friend in these dreams. But it is a few poems later (74) that the difference from the earlier visions becomes more clear:
As sometimes in a dead man's face,
To those that watch it more and more,
A likeness, hardly seen before,
Comes out—to some one of his race;
So, dearest, now thy brows are cold,
I see thee what thou art, and know
Thy likeness to the wise below,
Thy kindred with the great of old.
But there is more than I can see,
And what I see I left unsaid,
Nor speak it, knowing Death has made
His darkness beautiful with thee.
The first and second stanzas are part of the gain out of death that the author was looking for earlier in the poem and talks of in more detail in poems like 80 and 81 — the kind of appreciative hindsight which only occurs after a loved one is gone. The third stanza is the most interesting. Here, unlike the almost masochistic soul-searching and navel-gazing we've seen before, Tennyson doesn't divulge to us the details of his vision. He sees Hallam's "likeness to the wise below" but anything else he sees — and what it is that makes him know there is more he cannot see — he chooses to leave "unsaid,/nor speak it." Which is a very effective technique as it leaves the reader only with questions: what does he see and why does he not tell about it? How does this relate to his other visions, both dreaming and waking?
Last modified 17 September 2003