Do we indeed desire the dead
Should still be near us at our side?
Is there no baseness we would hide?
No inner vileness that we dread?
Shall he for whose applause I strove,
I had such reverence for his blame,
See with clear eye some hidden shame
And I be lessen’d in his love?
I wrong the grave with fears untrue:
Shall love be blamed for want of faith?
There must be wisdom with great Death:
The dead shall look me thro’ and thro’.
Be near us when we climb or fall:
Ye watch, like God, the rolling hours
With larger other eyes than ours,
To make allowance for us all.
Yes, if we imagine our dear dead alive with new powers, then the ability to know truth, perhaps the inability to be deceived, could be theirs. And if so, what truths might they see in us who love them: mean betrayals, conscious deceptions, inept failures, which we had concealed from their earthly selves? I feared this new gift in my dead daughter; would she see clearly where I had failed to respond to her need, or worse where I pretended to respond and did not. Will she rediscover the time I slapped her when she was abusively drunk? Will she recognise that I sometimes hated her and wanted her dead? Yes, yes, of course she will.
Tennyson thinks so also, but adds that, like God, they will have the magnanimity to forgive us. Heine joked on his deathbed, “Dieu me pardonnera, c’est son métier”: perhaps we trivialise the forgiveness of God, and of those who are alive in God. Tennyson gives to Hallam, “larger other eyes than ours, to make allowance for us all” which is beautiful enough to be true.
In this stanza it seems that the prayer to be near, although directed principally to Hallam, is still unaddressed and may include others.