A PILGRIMAGE THROUGH ‘IN MEMORIAM’ 37

Tho’ truths in manhood darkly join,
Deep-seated in our mystic frame,
We yield all blessing to the name
Of Him that made them current coin;


For Wisdom dealt with mortal powers,
Where truth in closest words shall fail,
When truth embodied in a tale
Shall enter in at lowly doors.


And so the Word had breath, and wrought
With human hands the creed of creeds
In loveliness of perfect deeds,
More strong than all poetic thought;


Which he may read that binds the sheaf,
Or builds the house, or digs the grave,
And those wild eyes that watch the wave
In roarings round the coral reef.

Tennyson’s theology makes Christ a living, historical illustration of truths embedded in human being and understood by some. Christ made these truths publicly available for human interaction. This differs from low theology which sees the historical Jesus as demonstrating a distinctive morality, previously unknown, (love for enemies); and from high theology which sees him as revealing divine truths otherwise unavailable (salvation by faith).

There is a degree of assumed superiority in Tennyson’s view, namely that the life of Christ has made these truth available to farm labourers, builders, grave diggers and south sea islanders, whereas he and others of the educated classes would have grasped them independently. This does not only expose his class prejudice, but also his very shallow understanding of the Christian tradition, suggesting that the reader should look carefully at sections of the poem which deal with such matters.

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