In Memoriam Response by Mariah S

In Tennyson’s elegy In Memoriam A.H.H, he attempts in a very measured sense, to comprehend the death of his beloved friend Arthur. His inability to cope is looked upon harshly and seen to be crippling to his masculinity. Tennyson himself wonders how his unbearable grief compares to the grief of others and questions the significance of human life. Although Tennyson pursues a typical Victorian faith, his ideas are much beyond his time. He takes the ever so popular knowledge versus faith argument and revolutionizes these opposing ideas into a rather harmonious relationship. Tennyson’s belief in both faith and knowledge has led him to understand that our little systems, though seemingly crucial, are trivial in comparison to divinity. When he speaks of the clock beating out the little lives of men, he is confirming our lack of importance within a greater picture – continuously using the word little to describe worldly principles such as science and time. In his attempt to understand death, Tennyson speaks of organic life and how it encompasses the bodies of the dead. The blindly running stars, the web woven across the sky, the dying sun: all of which make up an empty casing in which we exist. These thoughts bring forth an incurable grief – a grief that is so great that not even Tennyson can marvel in poetic expression. Formerly under the impression that poetry was the music of the soul, Tennyson now views poetry as a dull, narcotic, harping pain, which acts solely as an expression rather than a cure for his sorrows. In attempting to overcome his grief with a profound use of language, he has only propelled deeper into it. Thus, his greatest fear becomes that the body will be reduced to the mechanics of the world. He continuously struggles between his belief in divinity and the lack thereof, reducing the human body to an empty shell – a dark freight. The everlasting spirit is then reduced to a simple breath of air. Life, may then be, a simple and sad mechanic exercise. Is this the end? Is this the end? This question becomes an empty echo, continuing to circle within our mortal minds until we come face to face with death. In bringing forth these suggestions of human life and its purpose, Tennyson has yet to accept the death of his friend, Arthur. He continues to question and hesitate without establishing a meaning or an answer.

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