If Sleep and Death be truly one,
And every spirit’s folded bloom
Thro’ all its intervital gloom
In some long trance should slumber on;
Unconscious of the sliding hour,
Bare of the body, might it last,
And silent traces of the past
Be all the colour of the flower:
So then were nothing lost to man;
So that still garden of the souls
In many a figured leaf enrolls
The total world since life began;
And love will last as pure and whole
As when he loved me here in Time,
And at the spiritual prime
Rewaken with the dawning soul.
Here Tennyson explores one of the orthodox Christian doctrine that the dead sleep until the time of general resurrection and judgement. His metaphor of each dead life as a folded bloom, containing all the colours of the past life, and maintained perfectly until reawakened, is curious in that one has to imagine a bloom that does not fade, dry up, wrinkle and disintegrate. His main point must be that all the life of the plant is gathered in the bloom.
It’s even more curious that he then calls it a “leaf.”
The perfect preservation of each bloom means for him that Hallam’s love for him will last through time and be there for him again. In Dante’s Paradiso, human love is never lost, but it is required to leave self behind and advance into a perfection of love appropriate to each soul. Compared with Dante’s vision, Tennyson’s seems restricted and brittle.