Thy spirit ere our fatal loss
Did ever rise from high to higher;
As mounts the heavenward altar-fire,
As flies the lighter thro’ the gross.
But thou art turn’d to something strange,
And I have lost the links that bound
Thy changes; here upon the ground,
No more partaker of thy change.
Deep folly! yet that this could be—
That I could wing my will with might
To leap the grades of life and light,
And flash at once, my friend, to thee.
For tho’ my nature rarely yields
To that vague fear implied in death;
Nor shudders at the gulfs beneath,
The howlings from forgotten fields;
Yet oft when sundown skirts the moor
An inner trouble I behold,
A spectral doubt which makes me cold,
That I shall be thy mate no more,
Tho’ following with an upward mind
The wonders that have come to thee,
Thro’ all the secular to-be,
But evermore a life behind.
Tennyson remembers that his friend was not a static entity on earth, but a developing spirit to whom he could pleasurably adjust. Now however he cannot track his development since death. Without an impossible leap into life after death, he will never track that progress, and perhaps never catch up with him, “that I shall be thy mate no more.” This direct statement of his fear is moving.
It is a possibility with which I also have reckoned. If as Jesus taught “in heaven they neither marry nor are given in marriage” surely they are neither parents nor children. At first I wanted to maintain my relationship with my dead daughter, indeed I wanted it to be made right beyond earthly problems. I realised that if life beyond death is life in God, persons must grow beyond their earthly relationships. Then I reflected that if her life was perfected, she would know how to guide me, as Beatrice guided Dante.