Decorative Initial T hemes of mortality echo through Tennyson's work as the poet rationalizes death with faith and love. In Memorium A.H.H. is a testament to Tennyson's belief that mortality is the price that humans must pay to experience love for God and for each other. The poem chronicles a life fulfilled, from accepting death, to achieving faith, to experiencing love. In In Memoriam, Tennyson describes how his initial grief at his good friend's death eventually instilled in him faith in a higher power that in turn, enriched his life.

The faith, the vigour, bold to dwell
     On doubts that drive the coward back,
     And keen thro' wordy snares to track,
Suggestion to her inmost cell.

So word by word, and line by line,
      The dead man touch'd me from the past,
     And all at once it seem'd at last
The living soul was flash'd on mine,

And mine in this was wound, and whirl'd
     About empyreal heights of thought,
     And came on that which is, and caught
The deep pulsations of the world,

Until his friend's death caused Tennyson to question the meaning of life, the poet had never realized the importance of faith. Loss of life forced him to look beyond the living world to find solace. He received solace in the form of blind trust in the unseen. This newfound faith enabled him to continue experiencing the love he had for his deceased friend, which had been temporarily obscured by bitterness.


1. Given Tennyson's life experience, how does this passage from "The Coming of Arthur" express the idea that death must precede faith and love?

'And near him stood the Lady of the Lake,
Who knows a subtler magic than his own —
Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful.
She gave the king his huge cross-hilted sword,
Whereby to drive the heathen out: a mist
Of incense curl'd about her, and her face
Wellnigh was hidden in the minster gloom;
But there was heard among the holy hymns
A voice as of the waters, for she dwells
Down in a deep, calm, whatsoever storms
May shake the world, and when the surface rolls,
Hath power to walk the waters like our Lord.

1.How does Tennyson defend his claim that life without love is meaningless?

2.Tennyson claims that faith is the result of mortality because death forces the grief stricken to believe in a realm of goodness that extends beyond what they can see. Does he refute the idea that faith is possible without the experience of tragedy, or can only those who have experienced true grief experience faith and then love?

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Last modified 3 February 2009