That each, who seems a separate whole,
Should move his rounds, and fusing all
The skirts of self again, should fall
Remerging in the general Soul,

Is faith as vague as all unsweet:
Eternal form shall still divide
The eternal soul from all beside;
And I shall know him when we meet:

And we shall sit at endless feast,
Enjoying each the other’s good:
What vaster dream can hit the mood
Of Love on earth? He seeks at least

Upon the last and sharpest height,
Before the spirits fade away,
Some landing-place, to clasp and say,
‘Farewell! We lose ourselves in light.’

Tennyson sharply rejects any loss of individuality in the life beyond death. For him the glory of life is the love his separate self has shared with Hallam; so that self must survive death, and in the new life “enjoy each other’s good.” It does not strike him that this shared love is already a loss of self, and that it might be the beginning of a life without self-assertion.

He characterises loss of self as “merging” which is an unattractive prospect we associate with mobs of people, or with ingredients in a blender. We can see why he doesn’t like it. But he faces the possibility of it by claiming the right to a farewell embrace with the loved one.

Dante deals more subtly with the issue of individual soul and divine community. In the heaven of Venus he meets Cunizza, known for her amorous adventures in youth, but she tells him how delighted she is to be part of the community of heaven, at a lower status than some, because this where her individuality is at home.

….. .”.I was by name
Cunizza; and I glitter here because
I was o’ermastered by this planet’s flame;

Yet gaily I forgive myself the cause
Of this my lot, for here (though minds of clay
May think thisu strange) ’tis gain to me, not loss.

(Paradiso 9)

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