HThe wish, that of the living whole
No life may fail beyond the grave,
Derives it not from what we have
The likest God within the soul?
Are God and Nature then at strife,
That Nature lends such evil dreams?
So careful of the type she seems,
So careless of the single life;
That I, considering everywhere
Her secret meaning in her deeds,
And finding that of fifty seeds
She often brings but one to bear,
I falter where I firmly trod,
And falling with my weight of cares
Upon the great world’s altar-stairs
That slope thro’ darkness up to God,
I stretch lame hands of faith, and grope,
And gather dust and chaff, and call
To what I feel is Lord of all,
And faintly trust the larger hope.
It is not clear exactly what Tennyson means by ‘the likes God within the soul”. I don’t think he is referring to any specific capacity of the soul, but rather the whole human person as an image of God. That special dignity is the source of the hope for immortality. God values persons whereas nature seems to value species.
This aspect of nature throws him down on the altar- stairs of the universe, where he seeks the comfort of revelation but has to make do with the hope which he faintly trusts. He wants a rational faith, where religion and reason walk hand in hand, but he is honest enough to admit that the science of his time is tearing that partnership apart. In particular he tries to grasp what science is discovering about nature, the very nature that he loves and describes with such splendid accuracy.